In his book entitled The Symbols of the European Union, Carlo Curti Gialdino, Professor of International Law at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ and Legal Secretary at the Court of Justice of the European Communities from 1982 to 2000, outlines the steps which led to the choice of the European anthem.
At the Milan European Council of June 1985, the Heads of State or Government choose the same anthem for the European Community as that adopted in 1972 by the Council of Europe. The melody is taken from the final movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, composed in 1823, which sets to music the ‘Ode to Joy’, a poem written in 1785 by Friedrich von Schiller. However, because of translation problems, Schiller’s words do not form part of the European anthem. The music is arranged by Herbert von Karajan.
As with the European flag, several individuals put forward proposals for an anthem for the Council of Europe. In this letter dated 28 September 1951, Paul M. G. Lévy, Director of the organisation’s Information and Press Service, takes the view that the question of an anthem should not be raised until the problem of the European flag has been resolved.
In 1955, the President of the Paneuropean Union, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, and the Director of Information at the Council of Europe, Paul M. G. Lévy, exchange letters on the suitability of proposing that the Ode to Joy from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony be adopted as the European anthem.
This report by the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, dated 10 June 1971, presents the draft resolution of the Committee on Regional Planning and Local Authorities on the adoption, as the European anthem, of the prelude to the ‘Ode to Joy’, the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It also outlines, in its explanatory note, the adoption of the other European symbols.
In this resolution dated 8 July 1971, the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe proposes that the prelude to the ‘Ode to Joy’, the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, be accepted by member countries as the European anthem.
The Austrian conductor, Herbert von Karajan, took charge of the musical arrangement, orchestration and official performance of the European anthem. In this letter dated 24 July 1971, Lujo Toncic-Sorinj, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, asks Herbert von Karajan to conduct the official version of the European anthem, Ode to Joy, by Ludwig van Beethoven. On 12 August, von Karajan’s manager expresses the conductor’s interest in this proposal.
On 12 January 1972, in accordance with the proposal submitted by the Consultative Assembly dated 8 July 1971, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopts as the European anthem the prelude to the ‘Ode to Joy’, the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Ce mémorandum du 2 mars 1972, adressé au secrétaire général du Conseil de l’Europe, fait part des difficultés rencontrées lors des négociations visant à ce que le chef d’orchestre autrichien, Herbert von Karajan, renonce à ses droits d’auteur sur la partition officielle de l’hymne européen.
Dans ce mémorandum du 30 septembre 1974, le directeur des Affaires juridiques du Conseil de l'Europe explique les implications juridiques liées à l'utilisation du "Prélude à l'Ode à la joie", l'hymne européen, comme hymne national par la Rhodésie.