updated 10/9/2008 12:47:13 PM ET 2008-10-09T16:47:13

What do you think about when you hear Beethoven's "Ode to Joy?" Bureaucrats in Brussels? Long-winded lawmakers?

No? Well, maybe you should.

New life was breathed Thursday into plans to make "Ode to Joy," the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, the anthem of the European Union.

If EU lawmakers have their way, that, along with the 12-star flag and the motto "Unity in Diversity," will become the official symbols of the 27-nation union.

The European Parliament voted 503 to 96 to enshrine the symbols in its own rule books, at least — even though European Union leaders stripped these very symbols out of their new reform treaty last year.

Those in favor say these symbols are critical to reconnecting Europeans with the EU and "building a European identity." Those opposed say having a formal anthem, flag and motto would lead to the creation of a European superstate.

The controversy swirls even though the symbols have already been in use at EU headquarters and the Parliament for more 30 years — and no vote is likely to change that.

'Unnecessary' or 'ludicrous' to ignore?
But that doesn't mean it's not a fitting subject for EU debate.

"This move is unnecessary, provocative and a waste of time and money," said Timothy Kirkhope, a British conservative member. "Symbols and anthems are often used to promote nationhood, but many members still do not understand that the people do not want to be part of a European nation."

But Spanish Socialist Carlos Carnero Gonzalez begged to differ. The new rules just formalized existing practice at the assembly, he said.

"We would be ludicrous if we didn't do anything to recognize the flag that is known worldwide," he said.

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