The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation consisting of Member organisations representing 25 European countries.
The program of the European Blue Flag has been working since 15 years.
The countries participating to the program are:
Belgium | Bulgaria | Croatia | Cyprus | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Netherlands | Norway | Portugal |Slovenia | South Africa | Spain | Sweden | Turkey | United Kingdom
More than 2,400 beaches and marinas are now participating in the programme.
Iceland, Romania, Morocco, Montenegro and the Caribbean are working on establishing the Blue Flag Campaign.
A booklet published the Blue Flag Organization says that the "Blue Flag campaign started in Europe in 1987 with the purpose of encouraging beaches to comply with the EU Bathing Water Directive", and that the project has developed ever since, and as of 2005 the Foundation for Environmental Education, the campaign's managing organization, includes members in 38 countries and an International Jury with representatives of:
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
International Lifesaving Federation (ILS)
International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA)
World Conservation Union (IUCN)
European Union for coastal Conservation (EUCC)
Environmental Education Expert
It is a "symbol of quality recognized by tourists and tour operators", and therefore it is not a signal flag, but an award flag. Still according to the booklet, as "of 2006there were over 3200 sites awarded with the Blue Flag in 36 countries including countries in Europe, countries in the Caribbean, Morocco, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa."
A previous edition stated that as "of 2005 there were over 3000 sites awarded with the Blue Flag in 33 countries including 26 countries in Europe, countries in the Caribbean, Morocco, Canada and South Africa". However, it says that the Blue Flag was "awarded in 2007 to more than 3200 beaches and marinas in 37 countries across Europe, Morocco, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and the Caribbean".
The criteria for awarding the Blue Flag are updated yearly, "designed to work with the relevant national, regional and local legislation of each country", and have been "adapted and expanded to encompass issues encountered in areas outside of Europe", covering issues of beach and marina "environmental information and education, water quality, safety and services and environmental management", says the booklet. Some of these criteria, namely those concerning safety and area uses, may concern the use of signal flags, but the booklet does not expressly mentions that aspect. In countries or regions with where beach safety regulations prescribe flag usage, then the Blue Flag can only be awarded to beaches using them accordingly.
According to the booklet, candidate beach and marinas that "have been accepted by the International Jury are awarded with the Blue Flag for one season". These candidates are pre-reviewed by each national jury yearly; the International Jury meets twice a year to review applications from different areas of the world. The booklet also states that "Control visits are made during the Blue Flag season by both national and international controllers to assure that all criteria are being met. If problems are found the flag is withdrawn until they are fixed. If the problem is very serious or if the problem is not fixed within a given period of time then the flag is withdrawn for the rest of the season."
The FEE just e-mailed me to tell that the Blue Flag is not limited to marine sites. Sites at lakes and rivers are awarded as well, but with the limitation already mentioned: they have to apply for it themselves.