The flag was designed in 1955, and officially launched later that year by the Council of Europe as a symbol for the whole of Europe. The Council of Europe urged it to be adopted by other European organisations, and in 1985 the European Communities (EC) adopted it.
The EU inherited the flag's use when it was formed in 1993, being the successor organisation to the EC. It has been in wide official use by the EU since the 1990s, but it has never been given official status in any of the EU's treaties. Its adoption as an official symbol of the EU was planned as part of the proposed European Constitution, which failed to be ratified in 2005. Alternatively, it is sometimes called the Flag of the European Union when representing the EU.
Since its adoption by the European Union, it has become broadly associated with the supranational organisation, due to its high profile and heavy usage of the emblem. It has also been used by pro-EU protestors in the colour revolutions of the 2000s, e.g., in Belarus (2004) or Moldova. There are also a number of derivative designs used as logos or flags of other European organisations, and in the flags of the Republic of Kosovo (2008) and of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1998).
The flag is rectangular with 2:3 proportions: its fly (width) is one and a half times the length of its hoist (height). Twelve yellow stars are centred in a circle (the radius of which is a third of the length of the hoist) upon a blue background. All the stars are upright (one point straight up), have five points and are spaced equally according to the hour positions on the face of a clock. The diameter of each star is equal to one-ninth of the height of the hoist.
The graphical specifications given by the EU describe the design as: "On an azure field a circle of twelve golden mullets, their points not touching." The Council of Europe gives the flag a symbolic description in the following terms: