Czech MEP throws damper on appeal for EU ban on denial of communist crimes

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Six post-communist EU members, including the Czech Republic have urged Brussels to push for an EU ban on denial of communist crimes. In a joint appeal sent to the EU’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, they argue that the principle of justice should assure the same approach to all totalitarian regimes. Holocaust denial is already banned in many EU states and the six nations petitioning the EU justice commissioner would like to see similar treatment applied to the crimes of communism.

Karel Schwarzenberg, photo: CTK
In an open letter made available to the press this week, the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania say that the denial of any totalitarian crime should be treated according to the same standard, in order to prevent favourable conditions for the rehabilitation and rebirth of such ideologies. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg says the argument behind this is simple:

“In my opinion denial of Stalinist crimes is as serious a matter as Holocaust denial. Both the Communist and Nazi regimes took millions of lives. Both were mass murderers and those who served and abetted them participated in those murders. That’s all there is to it.”

In the open letter to the EU justice commissioner, the six-post communist states urge Brussels to take their concerns into account and are hoping their appeal will be given proper attention. However a call to Czech Social Democrat MEP Libor Rouček earlier today indicated this may not be as easy as it looks.

“I personally do not think that the crimes of communism are trivialized. To my knowledge this has never happened when we discuss these issues in the European Parliament and I do not think it has ever happened in the European Commission or at the Council. So I personally am very skeptical about this letter.”

Libor Rouček
It was signed by six post communist EU members. What do you think prompted the appeal?

“I personally think all those countries have internal problems – a rise in populism, xenophobia and racism – and these are the issues that the governments (by the way, all of them are right-wing governments) should focus on. I think that what we are seeing here is an attempt to distract attention from a difficult domestic situation in those countries.”

Holocaust denial is already banned in some EU member states. Do you not think that this problem deserves the same attention?

“Yes, some EU states have a ban on Holocaust denial and some have a ban on denial of communist crimes. I really do not understand why the Czech foreign minister has signed this letter, because it is not a problem in the Czech Republic. If it is a problem in some other countries – well, they have had twenty years to deal with it.”

So basically you feel that this should be resolved individually by member states?

“Exactly, and personally I do not see any country in the 27-member block where that would be a problem. What is a problem is the rise of xenophobia, homophobia, racism and those are the problems we need to deal with. Because politicians should look into the future and not constantly deal with the past. That should be left to the historians.”

Am I to understand that you feel there will not be enough political will in the EU for this appeal to be heard?

“I don’t think there will be, simply because, as I said, this is not an issue that would be important for the 27-member block. There are other issues not only of an economic nature that are more pressing – as I said - populism, xenophobia, racism.”

Do you have any idea how other MEPs have responded to this appeal – assuming they know about it, that is?

“I think that with the exception of a few MEPs from those six countries nobody has heard about it. It is not an issue that would be considered important for the agenda of the European Parliament.”