A European parliament conference parliament heard valuable advice: as Europe continues to grow, it is essential that its historical record is "set straight."
The conference,” United Europe, United History", was held on January 22 and attendees included MEPs, academics and commentators.
The aim of the event was to look at how the history of the continent has evolved over time. Speakers at the conference marking the establishment of the group included MEPs Tunne Kelam from Estonia, Girts Valdis Kristovskis from Latvia, former Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis, Wojciech Roszkowski, from Poland, and Gyorgy Schoepflin from Hungary.
UK Tory MEP Christopher Beazley, who moderated the event, said, “It is important when assessing where we are that we acknowledge where we have come from.
"History is not the property of governments or ideologies and may never be used as propaganda.
“If we are to achieve a truly united Europe we must share together our common story and then we may look to the future with hope, self confidence and seek to ensure that we prevent the re-occurrence of conflicts from which previous generations suffered."
He added, “It is not surprising, considering the protracted and unnatural division on our continent, that differing historical records have developed.
"It is important, as part of the continuing process of re-unification, that the truth of that period be discussed.
"Naturally, the fact that the fate of central and eastern Europe was surrendered to the control of the Soviet Union, is uncomfortable for many in western Europe, not least for my own country. ? ?“During this terrible period in our collective history no one emerges with honour.”
The group will start its work by cataloguing the events of the history of Central and Eastern Europe, the heritage of World War II and communism, which in the words of Wojciech Roszkowski is completely unknown in Western Europe.
Tunne Kelam told the conference that Europe has been reunited politically and economically, and this happened on the basis of such common values as democracy, solidarity and equality.
A lot still needs to be done, however, to complete that process, Kelam said, describing it as soft integration, or the overcoming of different visions of history, traditional prejudices, fears and non-understanding.
What is needed above all is an equal evaluation of the two large criminal regimes of the 20th century - nazism and communism, he said.
Because of the lack of such an evaluation, millions of victims of totalitarian communism have been relegated to the category of second-rate victims, the Estonian MEP said. Even in the European Union the famous words "never again" are not ensured for victims of communism in the same fashion as they apply to those who suffered under nazism.
Kelam said the creation of the work group was a remarkable step toward reaching a balanced understanding of Europe's recent history.
Europe’s historical record needs to be accurate