An anthem for all of Europe was first announced on January 19, 1972 by the Council of Europe (an international organization that has almost all the countries of Europe as members) and launched to the public on Europe Day (May 5, the anniversary of the founding of the Council) of that year. The anthem is adapted from the final movement of Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, from his Ninth Symphony, despite protests from musicians for using Beethoven’s work in this manner. The arrangement by Herbert von Karajan is the official arrangement.

The European Union (a similar supranational organization) also adopted the anthem in June, 1985, and is used at official European Union events. While Beethoven’s work has German words by Friedrich Schiller, as the European anthem no lyrics are used officially, rather, the anthem is in the “international language of music.” (The anthem has been known to be performed with Schiller’s words on important European Union events, such as the addition of new member states. The words are translated into the member’s official language for use there.)

Both the European Union and the Council of Europe use the anthem as an anthem of Europe as a whole, not as a replacement of the anthems of their member states, but to celebrate their unity in diversity.