Hearing in the European Parliament on the Crimes of Communism

Third step towards European platform of memory and conscience – a Czech Presidency initiative

BRUSSELS March 18, 2009 – Today Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs of the Czech Republic Alexandr Vondra attended the public hearing “European Conscience and Crimes of Totalitarian Communism: 20 Years After” in the European Parliament headquarters in Brussels. It was the third step towards the establishment of a European platform of memory and conscience to support the activities of institutions engaged in reconciling with totalitarian regimes in Europe. The other related possible steps include proclaiming 23 August a Remembrance Day for victims of Nazism and totalitarian Communism and strengthening the existing EU financial instruments in this field. Today’s hearing is open to the public. Together with Ján Figeľ, European Commissioner, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice-President of the European Parliament, and Jan Zahradil, László Tökés and Jana Hybášková, Members of the European Parliament, the Deputy Prime Minister reflected on “How does Europe reconcile with its totalitarian legacy” in the session bearing the same name. The opening session of the hearing is entitled “Our Common History: A Common European Platform” (see the attached Programme, Conclusions of the public hearing, as well as the speech of Alejo Vidal-Quadras). “In life one cannot have a good future without understanding and coming to terms with one’s own past. The same applies to Europe and its common memory. This is not an exercise for just one generation or one country but a continuous need for the whole of Europe. Only thus will we be able to better understand each other. Symbols such as the Iron Curtain still have tremendous power,” said Mr Vondra. “Knowing our past is also an essential tool to teach our children how to avoid intolerance, extremism and the recurrence of totalitarian rule in the future,” he added. Today’s hearing was organized by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in cooperation with the Office of the Czech Government and a group of twelve MEPs from around Europe. The first two steps towards the European hearing were taken last year in Prague. The first one took place at the June international conference “European Conscience and Communism” in the Senate of the Czech Parliament, where the Prague Declaration was conceived. It has since been signed by almost 50 MEPs. The second step was the preparation workshop in November, at which representatives of 18 European countries met and agreed on the fundamental outline of the aforementioned platform and the necessity of international cooperation on the elucidation of the crimes of the totalitarian regimes that reigned in Europe.

Contacts:

  • Michaela Jelínková, spokesperson of the Deputy Prime Minister, tel.:+420 724 258 939; jelinkova.michaela@vlada.cz
  • Ondřej Karas, director for Information on EU affairs, +420724516813, karas.ondrej@vlada.cz
  • Jiří Reichl, spokesperson of The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, +420 725 787 524, press@ustrcr.cz

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Press release “Hearing in the European Parliament on the Crimes of Communism” (Prague March 13, 2009)

PRAGUE March 13, 2009 – The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, in cooperation with the Office of the Government and a group of twelve MEPs from around Europe, are holding the hearing “European Conscience and Crimes of Totalitarian Communism: 20 Years After” in the European Parliament headquarters on Wednesday, March 18. The goal of the hearing, which takes place during the period of the Czech presidency of the Council of the EU, is to present how the individual post-Communist states have reconciled with their totalitarian legacy. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequently the Iron Curtain, it is high time to draw attention to the often marginalized crimes of communism. “In this period of the Schengen Agreement, which is a symbol of European integration, awareness of the crimes of communism, especially on the part of the young generation in ‘western Europe,’ is minimal. At the same time, these crimes make up an inseparable part of our common European history, much as the crimes of Nazism, which are much more often spoken about,” said Miroslav Lehký, First Deputy Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. The hearing begins at 2:30 p.m. in the building of the European Parliament in Brussels. In addition to Miroslav Lehký and the Institute’s director Pavel Žáček, representatives of partner organizations from Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, France, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will attend. From among politicians, the following have promised their attendance: Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra, European Commisar Ján Figeľ, Deputy Chairman of the European Parliament Alejo Vidal-Quadras, and MEPs Jana Hybášková, Jan Zahradil, László Tokés and former commissar Sandra Kalniete of Lithuania. The European Hearing is the third step leading towards the establishment of a European platform of memory and conscience which would support the activities of institutions engaged in reconciling with totalitarian regimes in Europe. The platform should also ensure the presentation of the work of individual institutions not only in Europe, but also overseas, through coordinated research projects offering faster transfer of new knowledge throughout Europe than exists today. The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes will also present at the hearing the pilot version of its English-language magazine, Behind the Iron Curtain, which is expected to become a professional medium featuring contributions by historians from throughout Europe. The first two steps towards the European hearing were taken last year in Prague. The first took place at the June international conference “European Conscience and Communism” in the Senate of the Czech Parliament, where the Prague Declaration was born. That declaration has to date been signed by almost 50 MEPs. The second step was the preparation workshop in November, at which representatives of 18 states of Europe met and agreed on the fundamental outlines of the aforementioned platform and the necessity of international cooperation on the elucidation of the crimes of totalitarian regimes that reigned in Europe. The European hearing, initiated by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, follows on this workshop. The idea for the hearing was first presented in 2007 in the proposal for hearing placements in the program of Czech activities within the scope of the Czech Republic’s presidency of the EU Council.

Please don´t hesitate to contact us should you have any questions. Jiri Reichl Spokesperson / press department The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes Securite Service Archive Siwiecova 2, 130 00 Prague 3, Czech Republic mobile: +420 – 725 787 524 email: press@ustrcr.cz

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