The Blue Flag is awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE).
The Blue Flag is a widely recognised eco-label. This is awarded to beaches and marinas where environmental protection is a high priority in site management and information encourages care for the environment.
The award of the Blue Flag is presently based on 27 specific criteria for beaches and 16 specific criteria for marinas. Though the specific requirements are different for the two types of sites, they cover the same four aspects:
Environmental Education and Information
Safety and Services
Some criteria are imperative whereas other are guideline criteria.
All Blue Flags are only awarded for one season at a time. By renewing the award each season the Campaign ensures that the beaches and marinas are constantly living up to the criteria. If some of the imperative criteria are not fulfilled during the season or the conditions change, the Blue Flag will be withdrawn.
Pascal Gross, 14 August 2000
The blue flag started out in France in 1985, under the initiative of a few French coastal municipalities. In 1987, the Blue Flag Campaign was officially launched by the European Commission, under proposition (and management) of the FEEE, within the activities of the European Year of the Environment, that happened that year. In that first year there were 10 countries participating in the campaign and the flag was flown from 244 beaches and 208 marinas. At first, the criteria for the attribution of blue flags varied from country to country, but in 1992 the criteria were made uniform and the Campaign started using the restrictive guideline values in the EEC Bathing Water Directive. With globalization, the criteria diverged again. They are uniform in each geographic region where the campaign is implemented, but they differ from region to region. In 2004, 2333 beaches and 605 marinas flew the blue flag in 29 countries from Europe, the Caribbean and South Africa. Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Barbados, Morocco and Poland are about to join this group of countries.
The flag started its career as a purely European symbol, though, and at first it was a simple white logo on blue field as shown by the image at the top of this page. But the need to identify the year each flag led to changes in the design of the flag. Its basic elements remained (the logo and the colours), but some secondary elements were added.
Note that the flag, as the example shown on the top of this page (after a picture published in 20 Minutes, French edition, on 12 May 2002) should have inscribed in white characters in the canton the year for which it was granted and in the lower hoist the acronym Feee [or Fee] and copyright sign. That is because the flag is granted for one year only, and the next year the competition starts anew.
In Croatia the year is written with a dot after the year (e.g. 2002.), which is the grammatical proper form in Croatian.
Only the flags that are really hoisted on the beaches and other appropriate sites contain the year and acronym. Small table flags seen in hotel receptions and such places, as well as most of the promotional posters explaining the flag, do not contain those numbers/acronym.
The Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe morphed into the Foundation for Environmental Education in order to accommodate non-European countries. The abbreviation therefore has reduced to Fee on the flag.
An earlier version of the FEEE beach quality blue flag. The Público newspaper published in July 29, 2003 an archive photo of one of these flags flying. The photo shows what appears to be the reverse side of the flag. The numbers are mirrored, the logo is just as mirrored, etc. I wouldn't be so sure, however: the photo could have been mirrored to fit better in the design of that newspaper page. Anyway, this pretty much confirms my memory: the circle of stars is there, the numbers are very much like the ones I drew. The colour is still uncertain, though, since this photo is black and white, and the stars are upright.