BRUSSELS -- A group of deputies at the European Parliament have launched a drive to have the EU declare August 23 a European Day of Commemoration of the Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.
The date marks the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in 1939.
If enough deputies sign the petition, the European Parliament will officially request EU member states to consider the issue.
The petition being passed around among the 785 deputies of the European Parliament represents a new twist in the struggle to charge communism with crimes against humanity.
Marianne Mikko, an Estonian deputy and one of the authors of the petition, tells RFE/RL its aim is to jointly honor the victims of both Nazism and communism in its Stalinist incarnation.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed between the Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany in 1939, committing the signatories to refraining from acts of aggression directed at the other party. It also contained a secret protocol, carving up Eastern Europe. As a result, the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic countries and a part of Romania, divided Poland with Germany and went to war with Finland, which refused to give in to Soviet demands.
Mikko notes that 2009 will mark the 70th anniversary of the pact.
At an impasse
The debate on the historical record of communism, forced onto the EU's agenda by its new, ex-communist member states, has so far led to an impasse. There is no unanimity among EU governments, with most in Western Europe loath to antagonize Russia and concerned that any indictment of communism could lead to a "relativization' of the crimes of Nazism, among them the Holocaust.
The European Parliament was unable to agree on a common standpoint after a heated debate in April.
The EU's executive, the European Commission, is still studying whether existing legislation -- which outlaws the denial or trivialization of the crimes committed by Nazi Germany -- needs to be complemented with a recognition of Soviet crimes. It has until April 2009 to come to a decision
Mikko says that the five deputies who in early May launched the campaign to commemorate the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact realize the debate in Europe will continue.
Their intention "is not so much to condemn communism, Stalinism, or other crimes [against humanity]," she says. "What we want is a symbolic opportunity to quietly and calmly mark the fact that Europe was divided for a long time and now, in 2008, it is again reunited."
Mikko says the petition has attracted more than 150 signatures. It needs to amass 393 signatures, or one more than half of the total number of deputies, before September 9. The parliament would then officially request the EU's 27 member states to consider the issue.
However, whether successful or not, the venture is likely to meet the same objections that so far have prevented the EU from recognizing that communism's record contained crimes against humanity -- the crimes of Nazism would no longer be unique and the EU's relations with Russia would suffer a severe blow.
(RFE/RL, June 7, 2008)
EP Deputies push for joint commemoration of Soviet, Nazi victims