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The use of flags: the rules to be respected

We are so accustomed to seeing flags flying around the city that we almost risk forgetting the importance and symbolic value that they hold.

When we are in front of a public office, we almost do not notice which flags are exposed inside or outside and, above all, how these are exposed, mistakenly thinking that they are placed by chance.

In fact, when we talk about flags, nothing is left to chance, precisely because of the great importance and value of these symbols.

The national flag, as the European one and, more generally, the flag as a symbol deserves respect and their use must never, in any way, discredit what they represent.

For this reason, the use and display of flags is regulated with precise provisions at national and international level. This is not just a matter of common sense or common usage, but of real regulations that indicate the discipline to be followed for the proper display of flags in public buildings.

In this article we collect some of the main rules to be respected for the proper use of flags.

As for the Italian standards for the display of flags, these are contained in the D.P.R. of 7 April 2000“Regulation regulating the use of flags of the Italian Republic and of the European Union by State administrations and public bodies”.

The settlement contains regulations on the exposure of the Italian Tricolor and other flags inside and outside public buildings, along with other general provisions to be applied in case of extraordinary events.

Where flags have to be displayed

A large part of the Regulation specifies where the two most important flags for our country, the Italian flag and the flag of the European Union must be displayed.

With regard to the exhibition outside public buildings, the Regulation specifies that the two flags must be displayed “outside the buildings where the Government commissioners are based in the regions and the representatives of the Government in the provinces“; “outside the premises of other peripheral offices of the State of general or executive management level, having a territorial area not less than that of the province“; “outside the headquarters of independent authorities and national public bodies, as well as their peripheral offices“.

In addition to the buildings specified above, the Regulation also provides that the two flags are always displayed outside the schools, of any order and degree, established by the State and “in the seats of the central governing bodies of each university, as well as in the principal seats of the individual faculties and schools“.

There are also specific rules for the display of flags inside public buildings.

In particular, the Regulation accurately indicates all the offices in which the flag of the Italian Republic and that of the European Union must always be present. In these offices, the two flags must be displayed on masts placed on the ground and behind the desk of the main office.

The two flags must always be displayed also inside the courtrooms of the judicial organs of every order and degree.

When flags have to be displayed

The same Regulation also provides for specific rules regarding the times when flags can be displayed and when they must be lowered.
In general, the national flag must always be raised first and lowered last, compared to other flags present.

There area also specific times and hours when flags can be displayed. Outside the offices, in fact, the flags should always fly at the days and times of activity, while for schools applies the same rule with days and hours of lessons.

In any case, flags should never be raised before dawn and should be lowered at sunset.

In addition, flags should not be displayed at night, except in properly lit places.

General rules for the correct use of flags

In addition to the provisions on where and when flags should be displayed, there are also a number of more general rules to ensure the proper use of flags. Here are some of them:

  • About the two flags, Italian and European Union, these must always be the same size and the same material, must be placed side by side on different flagpoles and always at the same height.
  • All flags displayed must always be strictly in good condition and well deployed.
  • Each flag displayed shall have its own flagpole and no flag shall be superimposed on another.
  • The flag must never touch the ground or the water, must not be flat or locked horizontally and must be able to fly freely.
  • The flag may not be used as a cover for tables, chairs or other objects.
  • Flags from foreign countries may not be displayed inside or outside public offices, except on special occasions such as international conferences or visits by foreign officials.

Order and arrangement of flags

Finally, there are specific and interesting rules for the arrangement and order of flags when they are displayed together.
We have already said that the two main flags for our country are the national flag, of course, and that of the European Union, but even between these two there is a precise arrangement.
The Italian flag, in fact, must always occupy the place of honor, that is the one on the right, while in the case of 3 flags the place of honor is the one in the center.
If two flags are displayed in a place where there are three flagpoles, the central one must remain free.

Always talking about the order and disposition of flags, if the Italian flag always occupies the place of honor, the flag of the European Union must always occupy the second position. The only exception that provides that the EU flag is not the second is in the case of the presence of a foreign guest of a country belonging to the European Union. In the latter case, the second position will be taken by the flag of the host country.

The order of flags also applies in the presence of a possible company flag or a specific body, which must always occupy the position of least importance and in any case never in a privileged position compared to the Italian Tricolor and the flag of the European Union.

Finally, in cases where a large number of flags from different states are displayed, all flags must be strictly at the same height and arranged in alphabetical order.