At the heart of symbolism

Flags, gathering banners

European Union flags

Flags and colours

We live a period where, paradoxically, more and more states are gathering into larger bodies and where the total number of national States goes growing.

The first integration movement touches all continents: NAFTA, ASEAN, BRICS, MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market), EU, AU etc. It expresses a national prerogative reduction to the benefit of collegiate authorities. The second tendency results from empire collapse (former USSR) or conflicts (former Yugoslavia, Timor etc.) creating new sovereignties.

Various and colored flags

These two opposite movements globally generated a growing number of national and transnational flags, which are exceeding two hundred today. Nevertheless, these symbols of gathering at the national and international level constitute the congruent left of the vast fan of flags, standards, banners, swallow-tailed pennon, triangular pennon etc. representative of regions, cities and communes, of military and civil instances, of corporate bodies and so on. As many of gathering emblems that contain plenty of symbols of which only the most meaningful will be studied here.

The national emblems mainly cover two types of flags 1:

  • The state flag flying over buildings representing governmental and military institutions on national land as well as diplomatic instances abroad. They are also used to represent the country overseas, at the Olympic Games for instance;
  • The civil flag that individuals may unfurl. It often happen that state and civil flags are the same. Sometimes, a coat of arms trims the state flag.

More than coats of arms, colours are playing an essential symbolic role in the flag signification. The various national and transnational flags use six basic colours (white, black, red, yellow, green and blue) in the following approximative proportions:















A single flag displays these six colours, the Olympic flag. Let us note that red dominates within the flags of the northern countries and green in the southern ones and observe that both colours complement each other.

1 back A third category concerns the ensigns, i.e. the marine flags. They may be the same as the land flag as in the United States or different as in the United Kingdom.