19th Jan 2022

Czech Republic seeks EU institute on totalitarianism

The Czech Republic, sitting at the EU's helm from January 2009, is to seek the establishment of a new European body that could serve as a research institute into totalitarianism and a museum of victims of totalitarian regimes.

"The institution could cover our totalitarian past from Portugal through Greece to the Baltic States," Pavel Zacek from the Prague-based Institute for Totalitarian Studies, said on Thursday (18 September).

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  • Stalin, along with Hitler, steered the course of 20th century European history (Photo: EUobserver)

Speaking at a public hearing on the issue in the European Parliament, Mr Zacek stressed the idea was to deal with all totalitarian regimes, not just Communism. "Europe as a whole has not come to terms with its own past," he said.

The goal to set up a pan-European body is part of the so-called Prague declaration on European conscience and Communism adopted by the Czech Senate in June 2008.

The document suggests that both the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes should be considered "the main disasters that blighted the 20th century," while the crimes committed in the name of Communism should be assessed as "crimes against humanity."

It is unlikely, however, that the institute will become a reality during the Czech six-month EU presidency, although Mr Zacek hopes that Poland and the Baltic States will push the idea further once they are chairing the 27-nation bloc.

Day of remembrance

In addition, Prague has suggested 23 August to become a day when Europe remembers the victims of Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes - in the same way the continent honours the victims of the Holocaust on 27 January.

A group of MEPs has prepared a declaration supporting the idea, with Bulgarian conservative Nickolay Mladenov telling the Czech news agency, CTK, that more than half of lawmakers have signed it.

"It will become an official document of the European Parliament next week," he said.

The date has been chosen with a reference to 23 August 1939, when Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin signed the non-aggression pact.

The pact renounced warfare between the two countries and defined spheres of influence, with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania being directly affected by the deal.

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