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European Union: Rejection of Eastern European States’ Call to Hold Communist Crimes to Same Standard as Nazi Crimes

(Dec. 30, 2010) On December 22, 2010, it was reported that the European Commission had turned down a request from six Eastern European states to treat Soviet crimes “according to the same standards” as those of Nazi regimes and to punish “public condoning, denial and gross trivialisation of totalitarian crimes.” (Leigh Phillips, EU Rejects Eastern States' Call to Outlaw Denial of Crimes by Communist Regimes, GUARDIAN.CO.UK (Dec. 21, 2010),
.) The request was in the form of a letter signed by the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania and sent to last week to Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. The letter called for the European Union to introduce a “double genocide” law to criminalize denial of crimes perpetrated by communist regimes just as many EU Member States prohibit denial of the Holocaust. (Id.)

The Commission rejected the notion of double genocide and also the six states' reference to EU legislation on cross-border crimes and an EU decision permitting rules that target racism and xenophobia as grounds for the drafting of a new law on totalitarian crime denial. According to the Commission, neither of those instruments mentions totalitarianism and, spokesperson Matthew Newman stated, “[t]he bottom line is, obviously, what they did was horrendous, but communist regimes did not target ethnic minorities.” However, in the view of Lithuania, the EU should extend its conception of genocide to include “crimes against groups defined by 'social status or political convictions.'” (Id.)

Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Audronius Azubalis, who initiated the letter, deplores Western Europe's stance of ignoring the history of Eastern Europe states that until recently were ruled by totalitarian regimes. In his view, there needs to be a better understanding that the EU should have legal instruments in place targeting Stalinist-type totalitarianism on the same level as those that have been adopted against Nazism. (Commission Turns Down EU Anti-Communist Calls, EURACTIV (Dec. 23, 2010),

The Commission's rejection of the Eastern European countries' request is based on a report it had previously commissioned on the issue, entitled Study on How the Memory of Crimes Committed by Totalitarian Regimes in Europe Is Dealt With in the Member States. The 480-page independent study, written by Dr. Carlos Closa Montero of the Institute for Public Goods and Policy Centre of Human and Social Sciences of Spain, contends that conditions for a legislative proposal on the matter have not yet been met, given that legal practice differs from one EU country to another, and that in none of the countries had a national court decision been issued thus far that “sanctioned the denial of crimes, committed under totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.” The report notes that “[o]nly two member states, the Czech Republic and Poland, have national legislation on denial of crimes which explicitly refers to the totalitarian communist regime.” (Id.; Carlos Closa Montero, STUDY ON HOW THE MEMORY OF CRIMES COMMITTED BY TOTALITARIAN REGIMES IN EUROPE IS DEALT WITH IN THE MEMBER STATES, Contract No. JLS/2008/C4/006 (Jan. 2010),
.) Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the Commission stated that it “will continue to keep this matter under review.” (Phillips, supra.)