The EUROPA postage stamp is an annual joint issue of stamps with a common design or theme by postal administrations of member countries of the European Communities (1956–1959), the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) from 1960 to 1992, and the PostEurop Association since 1993. Europe is the central theme.
EUROPA stamps promote philately through building awareness of the common roots, culture and history of Europe and its common goals. As such, EUROPA stamp issues are among the most collected and most popular stamps in the world.
The first Europa issue was on 15 September 1956. The postal administrations of the founding six members of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) issued stamps with a common design: a tower made up of the letters of the word “EUROPA” and surrounded by construction scaffolding. In 1959, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) was formed, and from 1960 the initials “CEPT” were displayed on the joint issue stamps.
From 1974, the common design was replaced by stamps with different designs, but with a common theme. When CEPT decided to focus more on telecommunications in 1993, PostEurop took over the management of the Europa issues. The CEPT logo was replaced by a new logo created by PostEurop, the word “EUROPA” leaning to the right.
In order to promote EUROPA issues among philatelists, in 2002 PostEurop created an annual competition to select “Best Europa stamp”. Until 2006, only representatives of the various postal administrations were allowed to participate in the voting during the Plenary Assembly of PostEurop, but since 2007 the winner has been elected through an open and public voting procedure on the PostEurop website. In January 2011, a new EUROPA logo, preceded by a symbolic reminder of the mailbox was introduced and a Jury Prize Competition was designed by seven philatelic experts.
Each year, PostEurop’s Stamps & Philately Working Group selects the EUROPA stamp theme. “Endangered National Wildlife” was the 2021 theme and this year, 2022, has seen stamps portray the theme of “Stories and Myths”. “Underwater fauna and flora” was to have been the subject of EUROPA stamps in 2023 but, according to a PostEurop press release on 29 April, the theme for next year was changed to “Peace — the highest value of humanity” at the request of Ukraine’s postal administration.
The decision was made at the April 25 meeting of the PostEurop board of directors after Ukrposhta proposed a change “to show solidarity with Ukraine and to promote the universal value for all humanity — peace.” A contest was then held to select a common design to be used by all participating nations. Public online voting ran from 9 May until 9 September. There were 29 designs submitted in the competition with 44 postal administrations participating in the voting.
During their General Assembly meeting in Dublin, PostEurop announced the winning design on 5 October. The winning motif is the one submitted by Luxembourg : “The New Peace Symbol”, created by Linda Bos and Runa Egilsdottir from A Designers’ Collective. According to PostEurop’s press release:
“The world needs a new Peace symbol, uniting all nations. Cultural differences perchance a barrier for a state of Peace. If only mankind could respect each other’s differences by understanding their significance and responding to them with consideration, the world would be a better place. This design shows a visual metaphor for a peacefully integrated, cooperative society in which people embrace each other’s culture. It was inspired by the Celtic Love Knot symbol, with interlocking hearts. The colour palette illustrates all the nations in the world. By adding hands with intertwined fingers, it conveys the message of mutual respect.
“The designers Linda Bos and Runa Egilsdottir from A DESIGNERS’ COLLECTIVE respond: ‘We are extremely honoured that our design has been selected to represent the visual of Peace in over 50 countries. We hope this symbol will be sent all over the globe and make people reflect on what is the highest value of humanity: Peace.’
“‘I would like to congratulate all Members on their beautiful entries of the 2022 EUROPA stamps. The theme revealed the treasures of European tradition and a new understanding of the common cultural heritage. We encourage all collectors and admirers of EUROPA stamps to explore the national written and imaginative references to the 2022 EUROPA stamps’ said Agnieszka Trząskowska, Chairwoman of the PostEurop Stamps & Philately Working Group.
“’All submitted entries for the 2023 EUROPA design motif competition presented various artistic interpretations of the issue theme, which, however, share a common understanding of the idea of peace among people. And this unity is the greatest success of the project’ continued Agnieszka.PostEurop
On 12 October, the postal administration of Finland became the first to announce their final stamp, a single non-denominated self-adhesive issue using the common design. It will be printed in sheets of 10 stamps and released on 9 May 2023, sold at the national value of €2.10.
As of this writing, three additional postal administrations have announced plans to release their 2023 EUROPA stamps on 9 May — Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Slovakia. The European Union celebrates Europe Day on this date which marks the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration of 1950, considered to be the first official step in the creation of what is now the European Union. Poland has announced they will release a EUROPA issue in April and Belgium has set 12 June as their release date. Amazingly, Belarus has announced two stamps to be released sometime in May despite not being allowed to participate in the competition. Russia has been banned outright.
EUROPA 2022: Stories and Myths
We shouldn’t forget the winners of the 2022 “Best EUROPA Stamp” contest, which were also announced at the General Assembly on 5 October. There are three voting panels in the competition — public, jury and operators– the results of which are compiled and gives an overall winner. The stamps of POST Luxembourg (Luxembourg), Posti (Finland) and Liechtensteinische Post (Liechtenstein) were revealed as the three most beautiful 2022 EUROPA stamps. According to the PostEurop press release:
“Having as theme ‘Stories and Myths’, a total of 47 entries took part in 2022 EUROPA stamp competition, depicting traditional stories, especially those concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
“The winners were selected in a combined voting in three panels (16,600 votes cast by general public, 37 postal companies and an expert jury) – POST Luxembourg’s winning stamp featured Melusina, while Posti’s stamp was Goddess Kuutar (Goddess of the Moon) and finally, Liechtensteinische Post’s stamp depicted the White Woman.“PostEurop
First Place: Luxembourg — Melusina
The big winner was the E50g high value of the two 2022 EUROPA stamps issued by Luxembourg. The stamp portrays Mélusine, a female spirit of fresh water in a holy well or river. She is usually depicted as a woman who is a serpent or fish from the waist down (much like a lamia or a mermaid). She is also sometimes illustrated with wings, two tails, or both. According to legend, Melusina was the wife of Count Siegfried I, who is considered the founder of Luxembourg.
“In 963, the count built his castle on the Bock rock above the Alzette for his beautiful wife, because she had set him two conditions before agreeing to marry her: she did not want to leave the Alzette valley and she wanted to be alone undisturbed every Saturday noon. After a few years, instigated by friends, Siegfried’s curiosity is said to have tempted him to watch his wife through the keyhole one Saturday and discover that her legs had turned into a fish’s tail. His cry betrayed him and Melusina disappeared into the Alzette. To this day, it is said that she appears every 7 years, makes a stitch on a shirt and that as soon as this shirt is finished, the Alzette will burst its banks, the rocks will collapse and the city of Luxembourg will perish.
“The Melusina with her fish tail is one of the most famous landmarks of Luxembourg City, a sculpture is located directly on the bank of the Alzette and she is a popular motif in a wide variety of illustrations.“https://europa-stamps.blogspot.com/2022/04/luxembourg-2022.html
2nd Place: Finland — Kuutar
The second place winner was the international rate stamp from Finland depicting Kuutar (‘Maiden of the Moon’), the goddess of the Moon in Finnish mythology. She owns the gold of the Moon, spins golden yarns, and weaves clothes out of them. In Kalevala, young maidens ask Kuutar to give them some of her golden jewelry and clothes. She, and the sun goddess Päivätär depicted on the other stamp in this pair are emuus (origin mothers) of bees, wasps and hornets and appear in spells that were sung in order to prevent these insects from stinging. There is also one spell from Finnish Karelia that states that the world tree grew from the golden and silver tears of Kuutar and Päivätär:
“–Kuutar cried her gold, / Päivätär her silver, / a droplet rolled, / on her beautiful face, / from her beautiful face, / to her [??] chest, / from there it rolled into a rivulet; / from that grew a beautiful bird cherry, / rose an iron trunk–“Finnish Folklore Wiki
Much like other luonnotars (feminine personifications of nature), Päivätär and Kuutar are more like etiological creatures, which nobody has claimed to have met nor is there any proof of them having been worshipped.
3rd Place: Liechtenstein — The White Woman
Liechtenstein’s third-place winner depicts “The White Woman”, a type of female ghost. She has long straight hair, typically dressed in a white dress or similar garment, reportedly seen in rural areas and associated with local legends of tragedy. White Lady legends are found in many countries around the world. Common to many of these legends is an accidental death, murder, or suicide, and the theme of loss, betrayed by a husband or fiancé, and unrequited love.
The association with the color white and their appearance in sunlight is thought by Jacob Grimm to stem from the original Old Norse and Teutonic mythology of alven (elves), specifically the bright Ljósálfar. These “light elves” lived in Álfheim (part of heaven) under the fertility god Freyr. As mythology evolved, elves no longer lived in Álfheim but lived on earth in nature. The White Women also may represent ancient beliefs in ancestral spirits or older native goddesses and nature spirits.
In German folklore, they are known as Weiße Frauen, in the Netherlands as the Witte Wieven, and in France as the Dames Blanches. There are also many legends in German folklore regarding Weiße Frauen, which are actually equivalent to the legends of White Ladies, ghosts of the United Kingdom. In the Alpine regions of Austria and Southern Germany they are called Salige Frauen or just Salige (Salkweiber, Salaweiber). On the stamp, the white woman floats through a field full of mulleins and slowly dissolves into thin air, just as she is said to have done, according to legend, when children encountered her. The mullein stands for fearlessness and protection from evil spirits.
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