20th Oct 2019

Call for all totalitarian symbols to be banned in EU

  • Franco Frattini believes there is a legal distinction between the banning of Nazi and Soviet symbols (Photo: European Commission)

A group of MEPs from central and eastern Europe has called for a mooted Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols to be broadened to cover symbols from other regimes.

Led by centre-right Hungarian and Lithuanian MEPs József Szájer and Vytautas Landsbergis, the euro-parliamentarians on Thursday said there was a "a double standard in treating the extreme right and extreme left ideologies" in Europe.

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According to these MEPs, not enough attention is paid to the evils of the communist regime which incited social hatred. The focus is on the Nazi regime which incited racial hatred.

While saying they are not necessarily in favour of banning symbols as it could infringe on freedom of speech, they want to make sure that if there is a ban it is not just for Nazi symbols.

The red star and the hammer and sickle ought to be banned as well, they say.

Mr Szájer said that in Europe there is "some kind of insensitivity towards left-wing regimes" referring to a recent EU decision to normalise relations with Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam said "even today we lack an assessment of communist totalitarian past".

Asked whether it is right to compare a Nazi symbol such as a swastika, used by a regime promoting racial hatred and anti-semitism, with the hammer and sickle of communism used by a regime promoting social hatred, the MEPs insisted there should be no distinction.

However, EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini has rebuffed these calls.

On Thursday his spokesperson said that Mr Frattini "want[s] to make a distinction between Nazi symbols ... and Soviet symbols".

Mr Frattini wants to keep the discussion on the ban of symbols within the framework of a discussion on an EU law on racism and xenophobia - which has been languishing in council for several months.

He believes this law, which has been blocked by Italy but is set now to be re-vitalised, would not provide an "appropriate context" for discussion on banning symbols such as the hammer and sickle.

EU justice ministers will discuss this law at a meeting on 24 February.

The whole debate was sparked off last month when the UK's Prince Harry caused a furore by going to a fancy dress party in a German soldier's uniform with a swastika on the armband.

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