05.06. 2012 Crimes of Communism against humanity: Europe needs to do more

Jerzy Buzek MEP, Sandra Kalniete MEP, György Schöpflin MEP and Tunne Kelam MEP

In order to seek a new model of international justice which could finally settle the ethical, moral and legal debt which the European Union has towards its citizens who suffered severe violations of human rights under totalitarian Communist rule, and towards the perpetrators, an international conference entitled 'Legal Settlement of Communist Crimes' was organised today in the European Parliament.

It was a new contribution towards strengthening the process of reconciliation and integration of Europe initiated by the Platform of European Memory and Consciousness and the Reconciliation of European Histories Group (R.E.H. Group) in the European Parliament.

"It is in our history, in the community of the past, that we find answers to the questions of how to act, what to do, how not to act, and what not to do. If the Communist crimes are to remain relevant as a warning for us and future generations, we must speak of them with clarity. We need the courage to distinguish right from wrong, giving proper meaning to the complex reality of Communist rule. A legal settlement of Communist crimes - precisely because of its legal aspect, its reference to rule of law and justice - can best help restore clarity in our understanding of those dark times", said former President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek MEP, in his opening speech.

"It is important that we do not only discuss and condemn the horrific crimes committed by Communist regimes, but also address the concrete steps which need to be taken in order to attain justice for victims and reconciliation for Europe. Many of the people who committed these crimes against humanity are walking the streets and justice has not been served; some even benefit from privileges earned by serving the Communist regimes. To attain some appeasement for the victims of these crimes and to set a precedent for the future, Europe should do everything in its power not only to condemn these crimes but also to pursue justice for the victims of Communist crimes just as was done for the victims of Nazism", emphasised Latvian MEP and Chairwoman of the R.E.H. Group, Sandra Kalniete.

Hungarian MEP György Schöpflin, who chaired the second panel on cases with European-wide relevance, underlined: "This conference is exciting and significant. It is exciting because it questions the hegemonic version of the past, that the Communist crimes are somehow less reprehensible than those of Nazism. It is always exciting when a hegemonic belief - that of the Western Left in this case - is challenged."

"The event is also significant because the victims of the crimes of Communism and their families continue to live with a sense of injustice, that the injustice that they have suffered has not been adequately redressed. The conference can bring the necessary closure one step closer. Finally, the conference is also important because it extends the concept of human rights to the Communist dictatorships and thereby establishes a sense of consistency regarding the recent history of Europe."

"This conference is about equality of all victims of totalitarian regimes before international justice. Today, 23 years after the demolition of the Berlin Wall and 8 years after the EU enlargement to encompass recent Central and Eastern European victims of the Soviet totalitarianism, it is high time to end the still dominant paradigm of post-war history, formulated with the participation of Stalin which has left millions of victims of the Soviet terrorist regime in the shadows. The experience of the past eight years has demonstrated that one of the preconditions to deepening European integration will be a balanced approach to the victims of different totalitarian regimes of the 20th Century with a legally-binding assessment of all crimes committed against humanity", highlighted Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam.

"We have to do everything possible so that young people do not fall into the traps of ever-changing appearances of inciting hatred and radicalism. The key is learning from past lessons and adopting legal measures throughout Europe such as an EU legal instrument against public condoning of crimes committed by the totalitarian regimes", stressed Lithuanian MEP Radvilė Morkūnaitė.

The conference brought together MEPs, legal experts, representatives of institutions and organisations dealing with the totalitarian past, victim associations, as well as important European institutions from at least 16 European countries.

Programme of the conference

The EPP Group is by far the largest political group in the European Parliament with 271 Members and 3 Croatian Observer Members.