EU newcomers demand ban on communist crime denial
(VILNIUS) - Six ex-communist EU nations Tuesday urged Brussels to push for a bloc-wide ban on denial of the crimes of their region's old regimes, saying the victims had been forgotten by western countries.
"The principle of justice should assure a just treatment of the victims of every totalitarian regime," the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania said in a letter obtained by AFP.
In the letter to Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissioner, they said "public condoning, denial and gross trivialisation of totalitarian crimes" should be criminalised whatever the regime responsible.
Holocaust-denial is already banned in many EU nations, but the six nations want such legislation to go beyond the crimes of Nazi Germany to cover those of the Soviet Union and its satellite regimes.
"The denial of every international crime should be treated according to the same standards, to prevent favourable conditions for the rehabilitation and rebirth of totalitarian ideologies," the letter said.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, who masterminded the call, told AFP the EU should take the concerns of its new member states into account.
"Everybody knows about the crimes of Nazism, but only part of Europe is aware of the crimes of communism," he added.
He acknowledged that an EU-wide ban on denying communist crimes was unlikely soon, but said the letter was an "alarm bell" for Brussels.
Earlier this year, Lithuania banned the denial of both regimes' crimes.
The Baltic nation of 3.3 million, which joined the EU in 2004, was a World War II battleground.
It was seized by the Soviets under a 1939 pact with the Nazis, and tens of thousands of Lithuanians were deported to Siberia and Central Asia, or killed.
The Nazis invaded in 1941 after turning against the Soviets. Their occupation saw the near-total destruction of Lithuania's 200,000-strong Jewish community by German troops and local collaborators.
The Soviets returned in 1944, and again cracked down.
Lithuania estimates that its population was reduced by one-third over five decades of Soviet rule which ended 1991.