The melody used to symbolize the EU comes from the Ninth Symphony composed in 1823 by Ludwig Van Beethoven, when he set music to the “Ode to Joy”, Friedrich von Schiller’s lyrical verse from 1785.
The anthem symbolises not only the European Union but also Europe in a wider sense. The poem “Ode to Joy” expresses Schiller’s idealistic vision of the human race becoming brothers – a vision Beethoven shared.
In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” theme as its anthem. In 1985, it was adopted by EU leaders as the official anthem of the European Union. There are no words to the anthem; it consists of music only. In the universal language of music, this anthem expresses the European ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity.
The European anthem is not intended to replace the national anthems of the EU countries but rather to celebrate the values they share. The anthem is played at official ceremonies involving the European Union and generally at all sorts of events with a European character.1