The European Commission turned down calls by six EU member states from the former Soviet bloc yesterday (22 December), which urged it to condemn the exactions of communist regimes and assimilate them to Nazi war crimes.
The Commission's refusal came in answer to a letter signed by six foreign affairs ministers last week, which asked the EU Executive to criminalise the approval, denial or belittling of communist crimes.
The letter was signed by the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.
The Commission based its decision on an independent report it had commissioned earlier on the matter, arguing that the conditions to make a legislative proposal had not been met at this stage.
The report, signed by Prof. Dr. Carlos Closa Montero of the Institute for Public Goods and Policy Centre of Human and Social Sciences of Spain, is titled "Study on how the memory of crimes committed by totalitarian regimes in Europe is dealt with in the Member States".
The reports concludes that the legal practice differs from one EU countries to another, and that none had no national court decision had so far sanctioned the denial of crimes, committed under totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
Only two member states, the Czech Republic and Poland, have national legislation on denial of crimes which explicitly refers to the totalitarian communist regime, the 480-pages report says.
"According to the information collected, it appears that until now there is no, in the EU,national court decision which sanctioned in a concrete case the denial of crimes committed by totalitarian communist regimes," the report concludes.
Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Audronius Ažubalis, who is the initiator of the letter by the six ministers, recently lamented in a EURACTIV interview that Western Europe ignored the history of the nations who were until recently under totalitarian regimes.
"Through education, we should move towards better understanding that the EU should have legal instruments on the same level as there are now against Nazi ideology and totalitarian regimes of a Stalinist type," Ažubalis said.
However, Ažubalis declined to comment on statements that can be interpreted as a rehabilitation of former communist dictators. Such statements are sometimes being made by leaders affiliated to his political group, the centre-right European Peoples’ Party (EPP).
In Romania, press articles have quoted President Traian Basescu as saying that Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu would have been a good president if he had stayed only ten years in power. Ceausescu stayed in power for 24 years until he was murdered during the December 1998 "revolution".
In Bulgaria, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that if his government was able to build "one hundredth part" of what Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov had built, "that would be an enormous success for any government".
Both Basescu and Borissov are EPP-affiliated.