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EU justice ministers meeting in Tallinn on Black Ribbon Day

Reinsalu speaking at the Aug. 23 conference in Tallinn.
Reinsalu speaking at the Aug. 23 conference in Tallinn. Source: (ERR)

The justice ministers of the European Union are meeting in Tallinn on Wednesday for a conference on the day of remembrance for the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. The event has become something of a European controversy since the Greek minister rejected the invitation and criticized the initiative.

The European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, also referred to as Black Ribbon Day, was proclaimed in April 2009 with the European Parliament’s resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism. Since then, the justice ministers along with representatives of organizations that study the crimes of totalitarian regimes have met on Aug. 23 every year.

Tallinn is hosting the gathering for the second time, this year with a conference arranged within the framework of Estonia’s ongoing EU council presidency.

The ministers are meeting at the Tallinn Creative Hub. Topics discussed include the issue of establishing a transnational body to investigate the crimes of communist regimes as well as the offenses of surviving officials of those regimes.

Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam (IRL/EPP) will hold the opening speech, and participants of the panel discussion to follow, moderated by Dr. Olaf Mertelsmann of the University of Tartu, also include Dr. Anna Kaminsky, director of the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship in Germany, Andres Kasekamp, professor at the University of Toronto, Igor Casu, professor at the State University of Moldova, and Dr. Bartosz Dziewanowski-Stefanczyk of the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity in Warsaw.

Reinsalu will respond to Kontonis’ criticism

Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (IRL) has promised to reply in writing to his Greek colleague ,Stavros Kontonis, who turned down an invitation to the conference saying that Nazism and communism could never exist as two parts of the same equation.

“I shall reply to my colleague in writing,” Reinsalu said at a press conference on Wednesday, adding that “we are faced with the important job of clarifying and increasing awareness”.

“Paradoxically, this letter will also issue a very clear justification why those kinds of activities are vital and necessary for our future as well as for the millions of victims,” Reinsalu said.

Both Reinsalu and the president of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience (PEMC), Goran Lindblad, who also took part in the press conference, emphasized the importance of condemning all totalitarian regimes.

“I would say that this is not a political but a value-based and legal question. The basis of this is human dignity, which is indivisible,” the minister said.

“It is not necessary to compare or equalize different totalitarian regimes. There is no need. We must simply look at the results of their activity. It is not important to people what kind of ideology is the reason they are killed,” Lindblad said.

He added that communist ideology in itself was bad, not that something had gone wrong when it was implemented. “Both the texts of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ and Karl Marx include it, the idea to use terror to keep dictatorships in power,” Lindblad, a member of the Swedish Moderate Party, said.

“Communists have been in government in Greece, but there have been few of them. If there had been more, they would think differently. So I hope that you will respond to them firmly,” Lindblad said to Reinsalu.

Greek Minister of Justice Stavros Kontonis turned down an invitation to participate in the international conference on crimes committed by communist regimes in Tallinn today, saying that the conference certainly didn’t reflect the view of the Greek government and the Greek people, which was that Nazism and communism could never exist as the two parts of the same equation.

The comments of the minister, who is also a member of the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), have caused extensive discussion in Greece.

The European Parliament’s European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group on Tuesday issued a statement in support of the Greek minister, accusing Estonia of politicizing its EU presidency and adding that the conference to be held in Tallinn was an “insult to European historical memory”.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: BNS, ERR

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