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Source: Der Standard, 16 June 2004, p. 27 © Reuters

Original Caption
"He is still holding the EU-flag in his hands: Bertie Ahern wants to bring the negotiations on the constitution to a conclusion under his presidency."

Picture Analysis
The title suggests a failure that the EU could ill afford, while the photo shows a person in dark blue pin-strip holding a folded EU-flag in his hands. As the subtitle reveals, the person is the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, who in June 2004 was also EU-Council President. Obviously Ahern was not casually holding the folded EU-flag in his hands. It must have been a particular occasion, a solemn ceremony, that moved Ahern to carry the flag: The assumption of the Council Presidency on 1 January 2004 perhaps, or the ceremonial expansion of the EU by 10 members on 1 May 2004. What the actual occasion was the picture does not tell us. A close-up of one hand, a seeming detail of a larger picture, it has given up its function as part for the whole ( the whole being the ceremony during which Ahern carried out some kind of ritual action) and - embedded in a new context - it has assumed a symbolic meaning. The caption under the picture calls this by its name: "He still holds the EU-flag in his hands", i.e., he is still in the chair of the Council, it still depends at least partly on his negotiating skill whether the discussions on the European Constitution can be concluded under his presidency.

The article that this photo illustrates was written by Ahern himself. He writes in it of the difficulties that still have to be overcome to reach an agreement. These are all connected with the particular interests of the national governments who - this is the declared goal of the forthcoming summit in Brussels - must give their approval to complete the work of the Constitutional Convention. Against this background the gesture recorded in the photo appears in a new light: Is Ahern holding the flag in his hands not because of a ceremony that he is in the process of conducting, but is he perhaps offering it to the governments in exchange? "Sharing sovereignty as well as working together is the best - indeed the only - way forward", he declares programmatically in the text. The EU-flag is a symbol of this sharing.

© Demokratiezentrum Wien

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The Picture Atlas is an outcome of the project ICONCLASH. Collective Icons and Democratic Governance in Europe

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