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Western European Union

Union de l'Europe Occidentale

Last modified: 2023-06-10 by ivan sache
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Flag of the Western European Union - Image by Željko Heimer, 6 December 2003

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Presentation of the Western European Union

In 1948, the Treaty of Brussels established a military assistance pact between the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In 1952, the USA proposed the idea of an European Defense Community integrated to NATO. The project was rejected by the French Parliament in 1954, and the Western European Union (WEU) was created in 1954 by a new European pact signed in Brussels, allowing the rearming of Federal Republic of Germany and its integration in WEU (and NATO).
The WEU officially ceased to exist on 30 June 2011.

The members of the WEU were Belgium, France, Germany, Greece (1995), Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal (1990), Spain (1990), and the United Kingdom.

Ivan Sache, 15 April 2012

Flag of the Western European Union

Although we've rarely flown it, WEU does have a flag: two actually exist, in a standard European blue background with ten yellow stars in a laureate formation. The flag is 2 m x 1.3 m, and the stars are 11 cm tip to tip - they represent the ten member states. The central "E" is 15 cm tall by just under 11 cm wide, and the stars are spaced equally in a circle around it, such that #s 2 and 9 are level with the horizontal "WEU", the outer tips 50 cm from the centre of the "E".

F.B., WEU accountant, 27 August 2010

The WEU flag was once flown operationally aboard a US Navy ship. For a brief period in 1995, the destroyer USS John Rodgers functioned as the flagship for the Italian general commanding WEU relief operations in Bosnia. During this time, when no U.S. flag officer was aboard, John Rodgers displayed the WEU flag. Based on the practice used for US Navy ships assigned to NATO standing naval forces, I believe the WEU flag would have been flown from a yardarm.

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2000

Former flag (1990-1995)


Flag of the WEU, 1990-1995 - Image by Željko Heimer, 15 December 2003

The former flag of the WEU had nine golden stars (for the nine members of the time) and the size of the stars decreased from the center.
[Album des Pavillons, recapitulative correction (1995) [pie95]]

Željko Heimer, 15 December 2003

Assembly of the Western European Union


Flag of the Assembly of the WEU - Image by Željko Heimer, 6 December 2003

The flag of the Assembly of the WEU is blue with a white dove rising from yellow lines of stylized assembly seats surrounded with 12 yellow fivepointed stars in perspective and below in an arch white inscription "UEO-WEU".
[Album des Pavillons, [pay00]]

Željko Heimer, 6 December 2003

Western European Union Forces

European Operational Rapid Force (Eurofor)

Eurofor was created in 1995 as a task force of the Western European Union. Declared operational on 28 November 1997, Eurofor was suppressed on 14 June 2012.

In a military parade held in in Madrid in October 2017 on occasion of the Armed Forces' Day, several European units (French, Italian and Portuguese) marched under their national flags but headed by the Eurofor flag.
The flag was rectangular (probably 2:3), showing on a blue field (regular blue, not the dark blue on the European Union flag) the Eurofor emblem: a red fleur-de-lis on top of a crossed green olive branch and white sword with yellow hilt, surrounded on the top by four yellow stars and over the emblem "EUROFOR" in white lettering.

[Coat of arms]

Coat of arms of Eurofor - Image by Santiago Dotor, 17 October 2001

The blue color of the background is a reminiscent of the European flag. The four golden stars represent the four founding nations: France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The sword symbolises military force, the olive branch is a reminder of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Missions. The waves are an allusion to the maritime environment common to the four Nations. In the center, the fleur-de-lis, symbol of Florence, the city that hosts the Headquarters of the Force.
Please note that the symbol of Florence is not simply a fleur-de-lis, rather a florentino, or fleur-de-lis flory.

I do not recall at all the three wavy lines appearing on the flag. And the flag showed only the charges on the coat-of-arms, that is not the silhouette of the shield.

Santiago Dotor, 17 October 2001

Multinational Protection Force in Albania (April-August 1997)


Flag of the Multinational Protection Force in Albania - Image by Jan Oskar Engene, 18 January 1998

The flag of the Multinational Protection Force in Albania has a blue field with stars representing the participating countries in the Alba mission. The stars are yellow, which makes the flag resemble the flag of the Council of Europe and the European Union. The stars are arranged in an arch and under the arch are set the letters "FMP" in white. FMP is the acronym for the name of the operation in Italian, Forza Multinazionale di Protezione. Italy was the main country involved in the operation. The Flag Bulletin [tfb] ("Flag news and notes", No. 177, September-October 1997, p. 186-187) gives proportions as approximately 2:3.

The flag was officially hoisted, according to the Albanian Telegraphic Agency, on 16 April 1997. Reuters news agency reported on 8 August 1997 that the Multinational Protection Force flag was lowered that day in an official ceremony at the MPF base in Rinas. This was in preparation for the withdrawal of the force to be completed by 11 August 1997. Interestingly, Reuters says that ten - not eight - countries participated in the MFP.

Jan Oskar Engene, 18 January 1998

Western Union Defence Organization


Flag of WUDO - Image by Željko Heimer, 10 September 2017

The Western Union Defence Organization, formed in 1948 and disbanded in 1951, was the precursor of both the WEU and NATO. The initial members were Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

The flag has a dark blue field bearing five links forming an unbroken chain, in gold [The links form a kind of pentagon, but with the "point" bottommost]. The field has a multi-colored border: red (outside), gold, black, and white [The relative proportions of the border are approximatively: Red 3, each of the others 1. The total width of the border is approximatively half that of the depth of the flag.] [...] These colors were taken from the national flags of the member countries.
[H.G. Carr. Flags of the World [car61]]

A flag for the Commander in Chief of the Western European Union was adopted in 1949 and offers several themes for international flags: the combination of the colour of the participating countries, the ring of linked chains or paper-clips, and the golden emblem on a blue ground.
[Theoretical aspects of a flag for Europe [cfra87]]

The flag might have been actually introduced and used as a command flag of Commander in Chief Admiral of the Fleet Rhoderick McGrigor (1893-1959) during the Excercise Verity (1949), the only major excercise held by the organization.

A photo of the flag is shown in the book entitled Badges on Battledress by Howard N. Cole (Aldershot, Gale & Polden, 1953). The original caption states: 'NCOs of the Corps of Royal Military Police displaying the Western Union Standard which incorporates the badge of the Headquarters, Western Europe Commanders-in-Chief'. It doesn't say where the photo is taken, although it might just be Fontainebleau.
It may be the reproduction of the black and white photo, but the colour of the field appears to be the same as the border, i.e. red, rather than blue. But I have another photo of a car flag belonging to Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery (1887-1976), from an Imperial War Museum display case, which definitely shows the main field as dark blue. The links are definitely angular, rather than rounded.
The text of the book, which is about badges not flags, refers to the linked chain device as symbolising the five Western Union Powers. The badge was certainly worn on the sleeve on a blue background. The badge was first seen in October 1949, but ceased to be used with the creation of Headquarters Allied Land Forces Central Europe. It was replaced by a circle of six links, the extra link symbolising the US.

Željko Heimer, Roy Stilling & Ian Sumner, 29 August 2017