Bavarian – A New Flag Family?

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You already know these flag families: Nordic Cross, Pan-Slavic, Pan-Arab, Pan-African. Also, flags around the world have been inspired by the Stars & Stripes, the Communist red flag, the Dutch and French tricolours, and the UN flag. I ask: Will Bavaria’s flag design with the iconic lozenges spread and become a new flag family?

The German state of Bavaria has two official flags which are both white and blue, the Bavarian state colours, or Landesfarben: One with two horizontal stripes called the Streifenflagge and another with a lozengy pattern called the Rautenflagge.

A lozenge (in German: Raute) is a rhombus, a geometric shape with four equally long sides, with acute angles of less than 90°. Lozenges or lozengy patterns is a well known feature in heraldry. The lozengy flag of Bavaria is derived from the arms of the Bavarian Royal Family, the Wittelsbachs, who have used the white and blue lozenges (in strict heraldic terms: fusilly in bend argent and azure) since the 13th Century.

Both the striped and the lozengy flag are in use in Bavaria and represent the state in the rest of Germany and abroad. But the flag with lozenges, being graphically more distinct and original than the one with stripes, has become the most widespread and is seen in a wide range of versions: with or without the officially prescribed number of lozenges (at least 21), with or without the Bavarian coat of arms, etc.

The lozengy design has for a long time been a symbol of Bavaria, one might even call it an iconic brand. The white and blue lozenges can be seen on all kinds of Bavarian produce. Maybe this is the reason why the lozengy flag design has spread in resent years.

Flags with black and yellow lozenges are being used in the Bavarian capital of Munich. The city’s colours are black and yellow and come from the city’s arms: a monk dressed in black and yellow. The official flag of Munich has two horizontal stripes, but the lozengy version is popular, too.

A Bavarian style version of the Gay Pride Flag with rainbow coloured lozenges is also in use.

It is perhaps most remarkable that the lozengy flag design has spread to a region of Bavaria which is not really Bavarian. Franconia (in German: Franken) covers the northern third of the state of Bavaria and is culturally and linguistically distinct from Bavaria proper in the south. Most of historical Franconia was incorporated into Bavaria in the beginning of the 19th Century, but there are also areas in the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Thuringia where people speak the Franconian dialect.

Franconia has its own regional flag (die Frankenflagge) with horizontal stripes, red and white, and the regional arms, the so-called Franconian Rake (der fränkische Rechen). This flag is common in the region. A version of the Franconian flag with a red-white lozengy pattern is also commercially available. Will the Bavarian lozenges spread further?

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Moroccan and Sahrawi flags side by side for the first time

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The African Union (AU) recently admitted Morocco as its 55th member. This was a controversial decision because of the Western Sahara issue. This conflict is still unresolved, but from now on the Moroccan and the Sahrawi flags will fly together at AU meetings.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a disputed state claiming the territory of the former Spanish Sahara, a sparsely populated area on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Today, the area is known internationally as Western Sahara. The Sahrawi Republic was established in 1976 by the Polisario Front. However, the Polisario government only controls a small portion of Western Sahara.

Spanish Sahara was claimed by Morocco and Mauritania, too. During the “Green March” in November 1975 hundreds of thousands of unarmed Moroccan civilians and Moroccan Army units entered the territory and a treaty was signed with Spain. The Kingdom of Morocco now controls most of Western Sahara and governs the area as its Southern Provinces.

The Polisario Front, then a Communist liberation force backed by Eastern Bloc states, protested the agreement between Spain and Morocco. In the summer of 1975 the International Court of Justice, in a so-called advisory opinion, recognised the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination.

Since 1991 a UN peacekeeping mission oversees the cease-fire between Morocco and the Polisario Front. But a definate end to the conflict is nowhere in sight. A referendum on the future of Western Sahara is blocked by the difficult question of voter rights for settlers and refugees. Morocco has established a 2,700 km line of sand walls and fences between the Moroccan and Polisario controlled territories.

Use of the Sahrawi flag is prohibited in Moroccan controlled territories. The flag of both the Sahrawi Republic and the Polisario Front is a horisontal tricolour of black, white and green with a red triangle and a red crescent and star. This design resembles those of other pan-arab flags.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is neither a member of the Arab League which backs the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara, nor is it a member of the UN. But the UN officially accepts the Polisario Front as a legitimate representative of the Sahrawis and around 40 UN member states have diplomatic relations with the Polisario government. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a member of the African Union (AU).

The decision to admit the Sahrawi Republic as a member of the AU predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), led Morocco to leave the OAU in 1984. However, on 30 January 2017, at the 28th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Kingdom of Morocco was welcomed back as a full member of the AU. African leaders were deeply divided before the vote in the AU Assembly which ended 39-9 in favour of Morocco.

The Polisario Front is traditionally supported by Algeria and South Africa. Other African leaders have expressed satisfaction with the fact that the Sahrawi Republic remains a member of the AU at the same time as the economically strong Morocco, the last remaining non-AU member on the African continent, rejoins the union.

“It is better to have Morocco inside the house, inside the family, and to try to reach African solutions to African problems,” one diplomat explained.

A Busy Flag Day

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In Denmark, April 9 is an official flag day. It was on this date in 1940 that Denmark was invaded by Nazi Germany. To commemorate the beginning of the German occupation and mourn the Danes who died in World War II, Dannebrog is flown at half mast – but only until 12 o’clock. After noon the flag is flown at full mast to symbolize that Denmark became free again.

In Denmark, flags are fown from 8:00 a.m. but no earlier than sunrise. Flags may not be flown after sunset. For at little over two months in the winter, the sun rises later than 8 o’clock in the morning. Anyone in charge of hoisting a flag will have to check the astronomical data in an almanac or calendar.

In Copenhagen on April 9, the sun rises at 6:20 a.m. and sets 13 hours and 45 minutes later. The person in charge of hoisting the Dannebrog on April 9 should to do so at 8:00 a.m. The flag must be taken down no later than 08:05 p.m.

Whenever the flag is flown at half mast it should first be hoisted to the top of the flagstaff for an instant before being lowered. At half mast the distance between the upper edge of the flag and the top of the flagstaff is about one third of the total height of the flagstaff.

On April 9, the day of commeration of the Wehrmacht invasion of Denmark, the rule is to first fly the flag at half mast, then to hoist the flag to full mast at noon. This is done to celebrate the eventual liberation of Denmark from German rule in 1945 and to honour the heroes of the Danish Resistance. If a two-minute silence is observed at noon, the flag is hoisted to full mast at 12:02 p.m.

In 2017, April 9 is Palm Sunday. Unlike Easter Sunday, Palm Sunday is not an official flag day in Denmark. In 2023 Easter Sunday will fall on April 9. Therefore, in six years time something unusual will occur on April 9 in that the flag will be flown at full mast all day. The reason for this is that official ecclesiastical flag days supersede other flag days.

In the Church of Denmark it is customary for the Dannebrog to be flown outside churches during services. The flag is flown at full mast unless their is a funeral service in which case the flag is flown at half mast. So, if a service is conducted on Palm Sunday between 10:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. (for example) the flag needs to be hoisted to full mast during that time. For the person in charge of flags outside a Danish church April 9 will be quite a busy day!

 

IN DANISH: I Danmark hejses flaget kl. 8.00, dog ikke tidligere end solopgang. Flaget nedhales senest ved solnedgang. Når der flages på halv stang, hejses Dannebrog først helt til tops, hvorefter det nedhales til halv stang. 9. april er en officiel flagdag i Danmark til minde om den tyske besættelse i 1940 og de faldne under krigen. Der flages på halv stang til middag, hvorefter der flages på hel stang resten af dagen. Palmesøndag er ikke en officiel flagdag. I folkekirken er det kutyme i forbindelse med gudstjenester at flage på fuld stang foran kirken.  

The future for New Zealand’s flag: 4 scenarios

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New Zealand voted to keep its existing flag one year ago. The flag of New Zealand is still the one that looks very similar to the Australian flag and has the British Union Flag in the upper hoist and the Southern Cross in the lower fly. Now, the flag referendum last year doesn’t mean the debate is over.

The existing NZ flag, adopted in 1902, won the referendum. But it wasn’t because it has no critics or because everyone agrees to never change it. Rather, a sizable portion of the electorate wasn’t happy with the alternative flag designs and voted for status quo in the hope for better options ahead. So, what are the possible scenarios for the NZ flag in years to come?

1. New Zealand keeps the existing flag forever

Despite years of debate and widespread political support for a new flag, the existing flag won the second round of the referendum in March 2016 with 57 % of the votes. The voter turnout was 68 %. However, the whole process and the cost of it all was heavily criticized. Also, public enthusiasm about the issue could have been much higher.

In this scenario, the debate will slowly die out, if nothing else, out of sheer fatigue. For the time being, no-one has the political guts to reopen the debate and spend more money on changing the flag. Those who don’t like the existing flag won’t be able to present a clear alternative. And so, the result is that New Zealand never changes its flag.

2. A less democratic process

The flag debate and the referendums of 2015 and 2016 was a very democratic process. New Zealanders wouldn’t want it any other way. Or would they? The problem with a lengthy, bottom-up process is that it results in hundreds of flag designs, most of which are very far off the mark. Designers have pointed out that inviting people to participate who hasn’t the faintest idea about design, might not lead to the best possible result.

In this scenario, New Zealand has a go at changing the flag once more. But this time the process is much more top-down. Parliament appoints a committee of flag specialists and designers and let them come up with one single alternative flag for people to vote on in a third referendum. Also, Parliament could make the final decision without a referendum.

3. Kyle Lockwood revisited

In the first round of the referendum in November-December 2015, two flag designs made by the same designer got almost the same amount of votes. Kyle Lockwood’s red-white-blue Silver Fern Flag got 42 % of the first preference votes, his black-white-blue Silver Fern Flag got 40 %. In the end Lockwood’s black, white and blue design got 51 % of the two-flag preferred vote and went to the second referendum. It was this design which lost against the existing flag with 43 % of the votes.

Kyle Lockwood combined elements of the existing flag with the Silver Fern, already a popular symbol of New Zealand. With two successful designs in the first round, it’s reasonable to suggest that any viable alternative to the existing flag must be a Lockwood flag. In this scenario Kyle Lockwood is asked to rethink his two top scoring designs and come up with the perfect Silver Fern and Southern Cross flag for New Zealand.

4. Total chaos

None of the five proposed designs which got to the first round of the referendum was able to beat the existing flag in the second round, but each of them was liked by a group of people. Supporters started using these flag designs in front of their houses, on stickers and online leading up to the referendum. Some still do. The risk of letting people campaign for six different national flags for years is that it becomes very difficult to unite around just one flag in the end. The most important purpose of a national flag is that it unites people.

In this scenario, two or three of the flag designs from 2015 are in unofficial use for years to come, causing lots of devisive arguments among New Zealanders and confusion abroad.

The Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg dies at 82

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Prince Richard, brother-in-law of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and head of the Sayn-Wittgenstein family, passed away on Monday 13 March 2017. His funeral service will be held on Tuesday 21 March, in the Evangelische Stadtkirche Bad Berleburg. 

Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg was the third son-in-law of King Frederik IX of Denmark. He married Princess Benedikte in 1968 at Fredensborg Palace, Denmark. Her younger sister Anne-Marie had married Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, in 1964 in Athens, Greece. In 1967, the older sister Margrethe, heiress to the Danish throne, married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat who became Prince Henrik of Denmark.

Richard was a man of humour, and of temper, totally devoid of the stiff upper lip and the jetset lifestyle so often associated with royalty. He met his future wife at the wedding of Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus in the Netherlands in 1966. “In the royal corner,” as he once explained. From birth, Prince Richard belonged to that inner circle of closely related princely houses of Europe, but he never liked the pomp and circumstance and would rather wake up early to a day of hard work in the forest.

His main occupation in life was the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg inheritance, one of the largest private estates in Germany. Prince Richard took that responsibility seriously. “One would hate to be the weakest link in a long chain,” he said. The Prince has been praised for his work in wildlife conservation. He was an accomplished hunter and angler. And he was a central figure in local life in the town of Bad Berleburg. His family’s presence in the area goes back 800 years.

Prince Richard was a male line descendant of the medieval Counts of Sponheim. The chequered arms of the House of Sponheim were however not used by that branch which inherited the County of Sayn in the 13th Century. In stead, the arms of Sayn (Gules, a lion guardant Or) became the central element of the family’s heraldic achievements.

The County of Wittgenstein, where Bad Berleburg is located, was added in the 14th Century. Its arms (Argent, two pallets Sable) are the same as those of the medieval Counts of Battenberg and, in modern times, the Mountbatten family: the Marquesses of Milford Haven, the Marquess of Carisbrooke, the Earls Mountbatten of Burma and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1792, the reigning count in Berleburg was raised to princely rank by the Holy Roman Emperor. The Principality of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in the Rothaar Mountains on the border between Westphalia and Hesse was one of the many tiny German states that didn’t survive the Napoleonic Wars. Until the fall of the monarchy in 1918, the head of the family sat in the Prussian House of Lords.

The arms of Sayn and Wittgenstein can be seen together with the arms of the lordships of Homburg (Gules, a castle twice towered Argent, windows and port Sable) and Freusburg (Sable, on a bend sinister Argent three boar’s heads Sable) on the family’s armorial banner which was lowered to half mast on Berleburg Castle at the news of the Prince’s death.

Prince Richard’s only son, Gustav, is the new Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. Prince Gustav is named after his paternal grandfather Prince Gustav Albrecht who was reported missing in action in Russia in 1944 during World War II. In the 1960s the prospect of the Danish king getting a German son-in-law was disliked by many Danes. It was decided that any children of Prince Richard and Princess Benedikte would only succeed to the throne on the condition that they were raised in Denmark and became Danish citizens.

It is one of Prince Richard’s achievements that his nationality became a non-issue. As a young child he had lived in Sweden with his widowed mother who was a member of the Fouché d’Otrante family, Swedish nobles descended from Napoleon’s Minister of Police. So, Prince Richard had learned Swedish. Later in life he also spoke Danish, albeit in his own charming, “mixed Scandinavian” version. He was the German prince who put a friendly face on Germany at a time when it was needed.

100 years ago: The last day of the Russian Empire

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The Imperial Russian State Colour is a splendid flag symbolizing that which came to an end on 15 March 1917 when Nicholas II abdicated: More than twenty million square kilometres of empire and a thousand years of monarchy.

The State Colour of the Russian Empire was the principal and most prestigious military flag in pre-revolution Russia, treated always with full military honours. The latest version of the State Colour, from 1896, is kept in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow. The image above shows the State Colour as depicted in Герб и Флаг России: X-XX века (1997).

On it are the full heraldic achievements of Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias: the arms of all the realms and territories that made up the Russian Empire and, at the lower edge of the flag, the combined arms of his Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov dynasty. These armorial bearings were the same as in the Greater State Arms of the Russian Empire.

The central element of the flag is the crowned, double-headed Imperial Eagle carrying the sceptre and orb of the Empire and, on its breast, the arms with Saint George slaying the dragon, surrounded by the collar of the Order of Saint Andrew, the highest Russian order. On its wings the arms corresponding to a list of the Emperor’s titles:

Tsar of Kazan (a zilant), Tsar of Astrakhan (an oriental sword), Tsar of Poland (a single-headed eagle), Tsar of Siberia (two sables), Tsar of the Tauric Chersonesus (a double-headed eagle), Tsar of Georgia (Saint George and the dragon, among others), Grand Duke of Kiev, Vladimir and Novgorod (Saint Michael, a lion, a throne and two bears, respectively) and Grand Duke of Finland (a lion and roses).

At the edges of the flag, six shields surround the Imperial Eagle with arms of principalities, provinces and territories of the Empire. On an oak branch, from top to bottom: Great Russia (present-day Central Russia), Belarus and Lithuania, and the North-East (present-day Northern Russia). On a palm branch, from top to bottom: the South-West (Ukraine), the Baltic lands (e.g. Estonia, Livonia, Karelia) and Turkestan (Central Asia).

The State Colour was made of silk and adorned with different kinds of passementarie i.e. elaborate embroidery, edgings and braids, with gold and silver cords, and applications of coloured silk and gold leaf. Fringes and tassels were black, gold and silver. These are the colours of the Russian “heraldic flag”, a black-yellow-white tricolour introduced in 1858 and still used by Russian monarchists and nationalists today.

Two silk scrolls were embroidered with four important years. 862: The founding of the first Russian state by the viking Rurik. 988: The baptism of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great and the acceptance of Christianity by Kievan Rus. 1497: The introduction of a nationwide code of law by Grand Prince Ivan III; he was also the first Russian ruler to use the title Tsar and Autocrat. 1721: The founding of the Russian Empire by Peter the Great.

The year 1917 was as important as any in Russian history. The terrible World War brought about the fall of a deeply troubled monarchy. But in no way did the February Revolution and the abdication mean the end of hardship for Russia. The October Revolution, terror and civil war, decades of Communism and another World War followed. The last Tsar was killed, the legacy of the Empire and a millennium of Rurikid and Romanov rulers survived and is stronger in Russia today than for a long time.

Turkish Flag Hoisted Over Dutch Consulate

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It is a centuries old custom, respected all over the world, that flags of foreign nations fly unhindered on embassies and consular offices regardless of any local flag regulations and the state of affairs between the countries in question. That is why this morning’s events at the Golden Horn is something of a diplomatic faux pas.

On the morning of Sunday 12 March, 2017, an incident happened at the Dutch Consulate General in Istanbul. It was reported by international media that, for a while, a Turkish flag replaced the Dutch flag on the consulate’s rooftop flagpole. Apparently, a man had gained access to the roof and was able to lower the red-white-blue flag of the Netherlands and replace it with the flag of Turkey. Shortly afterwords, however, the Dutch tricolour was back in place.

This happened after days of tensions between the governments of Turkey and the Netherlands. Saturday 11 March, 2017, the Dutch government prevented Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and the Minister for Family and Social Policies, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, from speaking to AKP supporters in Rotterdam. The Turkish government has expressed its outrage over this decision in harsh terms.

Politicians in the Netherlands and in other European countries openly express discontent with the fact that members of the Turkish government and the AKP (Justice and Development Party) leadership actively seek the support of the millions of Turkish citizens living in Europe ahead of the Turkish referendum on 16 April, 2017. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seeks to change the Turkish constitution and strengthen his power over Turkish politics.

The Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Istanbul is located in the old Beyoğlu district, just north of the Golden Horn. Pro-Erdoğan protesters have gathered outside the consulate following a night of confrontations between Turkish citizens and Dutch police in the streets of Rotterdam. The Dutch consulate in Istanbul is now being protected by Turkish police.

Heraldic Banners of U.S. Presidents

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Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, etc. More than a third of America’s presidents have had their own personal coat of arms. But almost none of them have been displayed in public. This is how they would look in flag form, as banners of arms.

The American Heraldry Society must be commended for having collected and made public all available knowledge on the heraldry of U.S. Presidents and other historic figures in American history. Their research shows that about half of the presidential arms are family arms inherited by a President. The other half are arms created for a President, inspired by his ancestry, his family name or the symbols of office.

Except for the arms of the 1st President of the United States, presidential arms are virtually unknown. In only two cases, banners of these arms have been used in public. The illustration shows how heraldic banners of six U.S. Presidents would look together.

Top row, from left to right:

George Washington (1789-1797) proudly and consistently used his family arms. Without doubt, the Washington arms are the best known of any U.S. president. In 1938, his arms were used to create the flag of Washington, D.C. Therefore, the capital’s flag with the proportions 1:2 is a variant of the heraldic banner in the illustration above.

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), the 3rd President of the United States, scorned the snobbery of people who used coats of arms. But at the same time he was a gentleman of his time and made use of his family arms in his personal seal and on silverware, not least while being the American minister to France in the 1780s.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), 32nd President, was a fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President. The Roosevelt arms spell out the family’s name in Dutch (literally, rose field): “upon a grassy mound a rose bush proper bearing three roses”. These arms were used by Teddy Roosevelt; FDR used a modified version with three cut roses criss-crossing each other.

Bottom row, from left to right:

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) was not only the 34th President of the United States, he was also a highly decorated WWII general. In 1945, King Christian X of Denmark conferred on him the Order of the Elephant. However, Eisenhower didn’t show a great deal of interest and it took more than a decade for him to live up to what is required of a Knight of the Elephant: to provide the Chapter of the Royal Danish Orders with a drawing of his personal coat of arms. In the end, he had help from Denmark. The anvil plays on the German roots of the family name Eisenhower/Eisenhauer (literally, iron miner).

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was of Irish descent. On Saint Patrick’s Day 1961, the President and his family were presented with arms granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland at the behest of the Irish government. After the President’s assassination, his brother Robert F. Kennedy led an expedition to the summit of Mount Kennedy in Canada, named in honor of the 35th U.S. President. Here, he planted a heraldic banner with the Kennedy arms.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) accepted a grant of arms from the now defunct American College of Heraldry and Arms in 1968. However, according to the research of the American Heraldry Society, the 36th President never made use of his arms. Since LBJ, only three U.S. Presidents are known to have used arms: Reagan, Clinton and Trump.

 

Read more about presidential coats of arms in the USA on the website of the American Heraldry Society: https://www.americanheraldry.org/heraldry-in-the-usa/arms-of-famous-americans/presidents-of-the-united-states.

Flag In Parliament? Almost All Of Denmark’s Neighbours Do It

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The Danish flag will be displayed permanently in the Danish parliament from 2017. Controversial as this may be in Denmark, use of the national flag inside a national parliament is perfectly normal in almost all of Denmark’s neighbouring countries.

It has been announced that the flag of Denmark, the Dannebrog, will be displayed permanently in the meeting hall of the Danish Parliament, the Folketing. This change will take effect at the official opening of the next legislative session, on the first Tuesday of October 2017.

At the opening of the present legislative session in October 2016 a large, swallow-tailed Danish splitflag hung vertically behind the Speaker’s chair. This was a temporary measure because of repairs to the tapestry usually hanging in that place. The decision caused lots of debate in parliament and on social media. The announcement from the Folketing yesterday has reignited the debate.

Danes would be hard pressed to explain to foreigners why the use of the Dannebrog in the Danish parliament is such a contentious subject. Especially, since almost all of the countries that Denmark likes to compare itself to display their national flags inside their national parliaments.

Some of the debate, it seems, centres around the fact that permanent use of the flag in the Folketing has been championed by the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti). Its former leader, Pia Kjærsgaard, is the present Speaker, or President, of the Danish parliament. Being highly skeptical of the European Union and of immigration, the Danish People’s Party see itself as a defender of Danish sovereignty, language etc.

In the future, the Dannebrog will not be hanging vertically behind the Speaker’s chair. Rather, it will be hoisted on a flagpole positioned near the Speaker’s chair. Deputy Speaker Christian Juhl of the left-wing Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), who was very critical last October, has said that he can live with this decision.

It is worth noting that by flying the flag in the legislative assembly, Denmark would do exactly the same as Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The flag of Greenland, Erfalasorput, can be seen in the Greenlandic parliament, Inatsisartut, and the flag of the Faroe Islands, Merkið, in the Faroese parliament, Løgtingið.

A flagpole with the national flag is placed near the Speaker’s chair in the parliaments of Iceland, Germany and Latvia. In the Estonian parliament, a table flag is standing at the Speaker’s left hand. In the Polish Sejm and the Lithuanian Seimas, a large national flag is displayed vertically behind the Speaker’s chair. In the parliament of Åland, there are no less than four Ålandic flags.

Also in the plenary hall of Sweden’s Riksdag, their is a Swedish flag. For six months in 2009, during the Swedish presidency of the European Union, there was an EU flag, too. In the German Bundestag and in many other parliaments of EU countries, the EU flag is displayed permanently next to the national flag. That is not likely to happen in Denmark’s Folketing, especially not with Ms Kjærsgaard in the Speaker’s chair.

 

Read also: Parliament Opens Amid Flag Debate

The Flag Coalitions In German Politics

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If you want to understand German politics and all the possible party coalitions people talk about, you need to know a little about flags, too. Some of the combinations of parties which could potentially join to form a government are named for flags with the same colours as the parties in question. 

2017 is Super Election Year in Germany. Today, it started off with the election of a new Federal President. There will be three state parliamentary elections this spring and, on September 24, a new Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, will be elected.

However, it has become increasingly less easy to predict which parties will be in government in the future. Those days are long gone when the Christian Democrats (CDU and CSU) or the Social Democrats (SPD) could be sure to govern alone, or with the help of just one of the smaller parties.

At the moment, Germany and three of its states (Länder) are governed by a “grand coalition” – a coalition where the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats have had to join forces to form a majority. Chancellor Angela Merkel of the CDU and her Social Democratic counterparts will be sure to look for other options this year.

A coalition of Christian Democrats (party colour: black), the Greens (party colour: green) and the liberal Free Democrats (party colour: yellow) will probably be possible. Such a coalition is usually referred to as a “Jamaica coalition” as the Jamaican flag is black, green and yellow.

Another combination of one larger party and two smaller ones is the red-yellow-green. This kind of coalition is usually referred to as a “traffic light coalition” (Ampelkoalition), but has also been called a “Senegal coalition”. At the moment red-yellow-green governs in the the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

In the case that a parliamentary majority can’t be built even when  Christian Democrats and Social Democrats come together there is talk of a “Germany coalition” (black-red-yellow) or a “Kenya coalition” (black-red-green) where one of the smaller parties takes part in the governing coalition, the Free Democrats or the Greens respectively. Presently, the state of Saxony-Anhalt has a black-red-yellow government.

Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein has been governed by a coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and the SSW since 2012. The South Schleswig Voters’ Association (SSW) is an alliance representing the interests of the Danish and the Frisian minorities. Its party colours are those of the arms of the historical duchy of Schleswig: yellow and blue. Because of the SSW blue, some have named the Schleswig-Holstein government the “Gambia coalition” as the Gambian flag has on it the colours red, green and blue.

A new Schleswig-Holstein state parliament will be elected on May 7. One week later, on May 14, parliamentary elections will be held in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

On February 12, the 1260 electors of the Federal Convention (Bundesversammlung) convened in the Reichstag building in Berlin to elect the Bundespräsident, the head-of-state of the Federal Republic of Germany. The next Federal President is the former Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the SPD.