TO THE untrained eye they appear identical - three vertical stripes of blue, yellow and red.
The lack of distinction between the flags of Romania and Chad has provoked a dispute between the two countries, with experts insisting one or the other must change its colours.
Ion Iliescu, the Romanian president, is refusing to consider such a drastic move, claiming the tricolour has been a part of his country’s heritage for generations.
The flags of Romania and Chad became nearly identical in 1989, when the Ceaucescu dictatorship fell and Romania dropped the communist insignia that decorated the centre of its standard.
In fact, while both flags have the blue, yellow and red stripes, experts say Chad’s blue is deeper than the Romanian blue.
All the same, Mr Iliescu insists that his country’s flag has a longer heritage than that of the African country, which attained independence in 1960.
His comments came after reports in the Romanian media that Chad was planning to ask the United Nations to look into the issue.
The Romanian president said that while a formula was needed to meet international requirements on distinctive standards, his country would not give up its flag. "The tricolour belongs to us. We will not give up the tricolour."
Romania’s foreign affairs ministry is reported to have said the country registered its flag in 1997, in accordance with the Paris convention for the protection of industrial property.
The convention is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a UN agency. The convention sets out a way of registering and advertising that protects state symbols, official signs and seals against their illegal use by another entity.
The ministry said the UN agency was satisfied Romania had fulfilled the requirements for registering the state symbol, flag and seal of the country.
It said it has no knowledge of any claim within the legal 12-month deadline against Romania’s registration and therefore it received the notification of the registration of the Romanian flag.
The ministry also said it had received no formal notification from Chad about any intention to notify the UN judicial office about the two countries’ flags and said it was investigating reports in Romanian media on the issue.
Local media reported Mr Iliescu as saying the three-colour flag belongs to Romania, which will not give it up.
It said that adding a coat of arms to the flag could solve the dispute, but that would entail modifying the country’s constitution.
Specialists in national heraldry from the Romanian Academy are looking into the issue.
The flags of the Principality of Andorra and Moldova share the same colours and pattern but with an added insignia in the centre.