Anthem of Europe

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European Anthem[1][2]

Official anthem of the Council of Europe and the European Union
LyricsFriedrich Schiller, 1785
MusicLudwig van Beethoven, 1824
Adopted1972 and 1985
Audio sample
"Ode to Joy" (instrumental)

The Anthem of Europe or European Anthem, also known as Ode to Joy, is a piece of instrumental music adapted from the prelude of the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony composed in 1823, originally set to words adapted from Friedrich Schiller's 1785 poem "Ode to Joy". In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted it as an anthem to represent Europe,[3][4] and later in 1985 it was also adopted by the European Union.[1][2]

Its purpose is to honour shared European values. The EU describes it as expressing the ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity.[2] The anthem is played on official occasions such as political or civil events.[2]


Composer Ludwig van Beethoven

Friedrich Schiller wrote the poem "An die Freude" ("To Joy") in 1785 as a "celebration of the brotherhood of man".[5] In later life, the poet was contemptuous of this popularity and dismissed the poem as typical of "the bad taste of the age" in which it had been written.[6] After Schiller's death, the poem provided the words for the choral movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

In 1971 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe decided to propose adopting the prelude to the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's 9th Symphony as the anthem, taking up a suggestion made by Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi in 1955.[7] Beethoven was generally seen as the natural choice for a European anthem. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe officially announced the European Anthem on 19 January 1972 at Strasbourg: the prelude to "Ode to Joy", 4th movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th symphony.

Conductor Herbert von Karajan was asked to write three instrumental arrangements – for solo piano, for wind instruments and for symphony orchestra and he conducted the performance used to make the official recording. Karajan decided on a decidedly slower tempo, using crotchet (quarter note) = 120 whereas Beethoven had written minim (half note) = 80.[8][9]

The anthem was launched via a major information campaign on Europe Day in 1972, without a public holiday, since it is close to May Day. In 1985, it was adopted by EU heads of state and government as the official anthem of the then European Community – since 1993 the European Union. It is not intended to replace the national anthems of the member states but rather to celebrate the values they all share and their unity in diversity. It expresses the ideals of a united Europe: freedom, peace, and solidarity.[10] A connection to the Constitution of the European Union is eagerly awaited.

It was to have been included in the European Constitution along with the other European symbols; however, the treaty failed ratification and was replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon, which does not include any symbols.[11] A declaration was attached to the treaty, in which sixteen member states formally recognised the proposed symbols.[12] In response, the European Parliament decided that it would make greater use of the anthem, for example at official occasions.[11] In October 2008, the Parliament changed its rules of procedure to have the anthem played at the opening of Parliament after elections and at formal sittings.[13]


"Ode to Joy" is the anthem of the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union (EU). In the context of the CoE, the anthem is used to represent all of Europe. In the context of the EU, the anthem is used to represent the union and its people. It is used on occasions such as Europe Day and formal events such as the signing of treaties. The European Parliament seeks to make greater use of the music; then-Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering stated he was moved when the anthem was played for him on his visit to Israel and ought to be used in Europe more often.[11]

The German public radio station Deutschlandfunk has broadcast the anthem together with the Deutschlandlied shortly before midnight since New Year's Eve 2006. The two anthems were specially recorded by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra in versions characterized by "modesty and intensity".[14]

At the 2007 signing ceremony for the Treaty of Lisbon, the plenipotentiaries of the European Union's twenty-seven member states stood in attendance while the "Ode to Joy" was played and a choir of 26 Portuguese children sang the original German lyrics.[15]

In 2008 it was used by Kosovo as its national anthem until it adopted its own, and it was played at its declaration of independence, as a nod to the EU's role in its independence from Serbia.[16]

"Ode to Joy", automatically orchestrated in seven different styles, was used on 18 June 2015 during the ceremony celebrating the 5000th ERC grantee as anthem of the European Research Council to represent achievements of European research.[17]

"Ode to Joy" is used as the theme song to the 2016 UEFA Euro qualifying and the European qualifying of the 2018 FIFA World Cup football competition at the introduction of every match.[18]

In 2017, members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from the Scottish National Party first whistled and then sang "Ode to Joy" during a vote at the House of Commons to protest against Brexit.[19]

In 2018, the anthem of Japan and the anthem of the EU were performed in Tokyo during the official signing of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.[20] The European anthem is often played at the signing of official economic or political agreements with foreign governments. In 2023, it was played after the anthem of Ukraine during President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to the EU parliament.


  1. ^ a b "The European Anthem". Council of Europe. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d "European Anthem". Europa. Archived from the original on 15 August 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
  3. ^ "The European anthem - The Council of Europe in brief -".
  4. ^ "Council of Europe: The European Flag and Anthem". 4 February 2014.
  5. ^ Rudolf, Max; Stern, Michael; White, Hanny Bleeker (2001). "Beethoven's An die Freude and Two Mysterious Footnotes". A Musical Life: Writings and Letters. Pendragon Press. pp. 267–268. ISBN 9781576470381. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  6. ^ Schiller and Körner (1849). Correspondence of Schiller with Körner. Translated by Leonard Simpson. London: Richard Bentley. p. 221. Retrieved 9 July 2008. ode-to-joy schiller bad-poem.
  7. ^ "Letter to Paul Levy, 3 August 1955" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2009.
  8. ^ Story of the European Anthem:
  9. ^ Buch, Esteban (2003). Beethoven's Ninth: a political history. Translated by Miller, Richard. Internet Archive. University of Chicago Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-226-07812-0.
  10. ^ "The Council of Europe: Guardian of Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law for 700 million citizens". Council of Europe. Archived from the original on 30 October 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  11. ^ a b c Beunderman, Mark (11 July 2007). "MEPs defy member states on EU symbols". EUobserver. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
  12. ^ "Official Journal of the European Union, 2007 C 306–2, p. 267".
  13. ^ Kubosova, Lucia (9 October 2008). "No prolonged mandate for Barroso, MEPs warn". EUobserver. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  14. ^ Sträßner, Matthias. "Wer D singt, muss auch E singen" [Whoever sings D, must also sing E]. Deutschlandfunk (in German). Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  15. ^ Signing ceremony of the Treaty of Lisbon (Full) 1/6 on YouTube
  16. ^ "Kosovo declares independence". USA Today. 17 February 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  17. ^ Machine Learning Techniques for Reorchestrating the European Anthem on YouTube
  18. ^ European Qualifiers Intro – UEFA EURO 2016 on YouTube
  19. ^ "The SNP staged a musical protest as MPs voted on whether to trigger Article 50". 8 February 2017. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022.
  20. ^ "Official welcome ceremony, EU-Japan summit, Tokyo". 17 July 2018. Archived from the original on 18 October 2018. Retrieved 30 March 2021.

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