Giscard calls for EU motto, anthem and public holiday

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The Independent Online

The European Union is to have its own anthem, public holiday and motto - "united in diversity" - if the final draft of a new constitution is accepted.

The former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, winding up the convention on the future of Europe yesterday, pulled off one final surprise, proposing the first slogan for the EU.

The document, published after 16 months of negotiation, gave formal status to the unofficial European anthem, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", and its flag, 12 golden stars on a blue background. And it states: "9 May shall be celebrated throughout the Union as Europe day."

Diplomats argue that this date is marked throughout the EU institutions, but not in all member states, and that there would be no requirement on national governments to declare a bank holiday.

The draft document now goes to EU heads of government, who must take the final decisions on whether to adopt it and what changes to make.

M. Giscard has done his best to produce a politically acceptable compromise and threw in two last-minute concessions to try to buy off opposition from Paris and Berlin. In a final round of haggling, Germany won a battle for a clause spelling out that countries will need to agree unanimously on any quotas on migrant labour.

A second fierce dispute ended with France preserving a right of veto over clauses in international trade negotiations that could protect its film and television industry from Hollywood.

M. Giscard hopes this will be enough to give his draft text broad support in the intergovernmental conference (IGC), and prevent sceptical member states unravelling it. Whether the concession to Germany was broad enough remained unclear, however.

Britain has several objections to the draft text, with worries about the loss of the national veto in limited areas of tax, social security, criminal law and decisions on the EU budget. It also opposes the idea of a mutual defence guarantee and has doubts over plans for an EU foreign minister. Spain is alarmed by proposed changes to the voting system, and small nations are worried they will suffer in a streamlining of the European Commission.

Yesterday's inclusion of the EU anthem and motto may heighten the sensitivities of Eurosceptics, who argue that the EU is gaining the trappings of a state. Jens Peter Bonde, a Danish Eurosceptic member of M. Giscard's convention, said: "They have taken all the symbols of the nation state and all the tools of power - the only problem is the people."

That objection was dismissed by diplomats who say that the EU flag, anthem and holiday already exist.

Andrew Duff, a Liberal Democrat convention member, said: "No one is departing from here triumphant, but it is a good package."

M. Giscard appealed to national governments not to unpick his work. He suggested holding monthly meetings with the Italian presidency of the EU during the IGC, which will start in the autumn.