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European Parliament whitnesed why Slovenia is different from other countries

On Wednesday, the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions (PETI) in Brussels discussed a Slovenian petition launched last year by MEP Romana Tomc together with historian Dr Mitja Ferenc. The petition calls for the victims of communist violence to be guaranteed the right to a grave and to be remembered like the victims of other totalitarian regimes. At the end of the debate, MEP Romana Tomc highlighted the achievements of the debate and the petition. It will continue its journey on the European stage, and the Slovenian government of Robert Golob will shortly be called upon to reverse its shameful decision to abolish the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence.

On Tuesday, a press conference was held at the headquarters of the European People’s Party (EPP), during which MEPs and Dr Ferenc explained the reasons for submitting the widely supported petition. According to MEP Romana Tomc, the abolition of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence was met with astonishment by her fellow MEPs. Dr Mitja Ferenc also pointed out that the government had not listened to the arguments in the protest statement and had not reversed its scandalous decision, the magazine Demokracija reports.

The hearing of the petition in Brussels will also be attended by guests from Slovenia, including Alenka Jeraj, a member of the National Assembly, Dr Jože Možina, a journalist and author of the book The Slovenian Schism (“Slovenski razkol”) and Dr Boštjan M. Turk, publicist and professor, who is also a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

The first speaker at the discussion that was held in the European Parliament was Dr Mitja Ferenc: “I would like to point out that in Slovenia, there are marked differences in the attitude towards the victims of one of the three totalitarian systems, more specifically the communist system, compared to the victims of fascism and Nazism.” Ferenc went on to say that we have a proper attitude towards the victims of fascism and Nazism and that resistance to these two ideologies is seen as a positive social value, but the same cannot be said for the attitude towards the victims of communism. They are deprived of the most basic human rights, such as the right to a dignified burial or to be issued a death certificate. He pointed out that some wrongs have already been righted, but Slovenia still does not have a day of commemoration for the victims of communist violence.

“The Resolution on European Conscience and Totalitarianism, which my country has not ratified, stresses that truth and memory are essential for reconciliation,” Dr Ferenc pointed out.

Ferenc also explained why Slovenia is different from other countries. After the end of the Second World War, Slovenia experienced a new dark chapter in which “tens of thousands of prisoners of war, as well as civilians of different nationalities, were unjustly executed, without trial and at the behest of the communist leadership.”

“Individuals with different ethnic backgrounds were killed. Germans, Italians, Croatians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Bosnians, Hungarians, Roma, Slovenians. There were 15 thousand Slovenian victims alone,” he said, adding that these victims were denied basic human rights, such as the right to a dignified burial and the issue of a death certificate, and their relatives were denied the right to mourn. Even the democratisation of Slovenia has not brought significant changes in this area. Monuments to communism and communist leaders still stand in the capital, and none of those responsible have ever been brought to justice.

“In 33 years of democratic Slovenia, we have discovered more than 700 mass graves. The remains of the victims have only been dug up in 100 cases. Most of the remains are still stored in various warehouses. Today, there is an urgent need to bury the 300 victims who were dug out of just one pit. These are individuals of Slovenian and Croatian nationality,” he said.

Why am I here today?

Ferenc then explained the reasons for the petition. The previous government, led by Janez Janša, had designated the 17th of May as a Dar of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence, with the aim of raising awareness that this part of history should never be repeated. On the eve of the commemoration day, many relatives of the victims gathered to share their grief and to light candles in memory of those murdered.

“However, the newly elected government under the leadership of Robert Golob suddenly cancelled the Day of Remembrance during the commemoration ceremony itself. The government thus showed that it is not yet willing to acknowledge the pain and the unhealed wounds of a part of the population.”

“By cancelling the Day of Remembrance, the government has symbolically denied the existence of these victims,” said Dr Ferenc.

“This is why I am here today […] Slovenia also needs a Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence. I am here to remind you that Slovenia also needs a Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence. Our appeals to the government to reinstate the Day of Remembrance have not been successful. No one loses anything by commemorating these victims,” he said. He concluded his speech by saying that a Day of Remembrance would be a great step forward in civilisation for Slovenia and would make the victims’ relatives feel equal to others in Slovenia.

The European Commission representative then took the floor, highlighting some of the steps the Commission had taken in the past to remember past atrocities, but also pointing out that it was primarily the responsibility of the Member States to ensure that they were properly remembered. He suggested that the petitioners could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

“What the government is doing is not worthy of democracy”

The next speaker was German MEP Peter Jahr of the European People’s Party, who thanked the petitioners: “If you don’t understand your past, you can’t understand the present. A culture of remembrance is extremely important, and this is something that is crucial in the European Union. What the petitioner has said is something absolutely crucial. What the government is doing is not worthy of democracy.” He believes that the petition should remain open. He also thinks that a letter should be sent to the government, at least expressing our disappointment and urging it to reinstate the Day of Remembrance.

Bulgarian MEP: There is no such thing as good communism!

Andrei Kovachev, a Bulgarian MEP, spoke very directly and said that “there is no such thing as good communism.” “Communism is an evil ideology that has caused many deaths on this planet,” he said critically.

“31 years have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but to this day, we are still discovering the atrocities of those regimes. In the countries that are today part of the European Union. For those who did not live under these regimes, it is still hard to believe what happened. I can only thank the petitioner for opening our eyes,” said MEP Antonio Javier López-Istúriz White.

Romana Tomc: It is an act of weakness

Romana Tomc, a Slovenian MEP, began by recalling that MEPs have repeatedly denounced communism as a totalitarian regime that has caused much suffering. She recalled that communism was particularly harsh in Slovenia. “Some steps have been taken in the past, but we are still very far from reconciliation. That is why we were all the more surprised by the decision of the government led by Prime Minister Robert Golob to abolish the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence,” the MEP said.

“This was a dagger in the heart of all those who seek justice and truth. Who could do something so inhumane?” wondered MEP Tomc.

“Is this someone who is ideologically linked to the communist regime and who wants to cover up its crimes and criminals at any cost, is this someone who has no compassion whatsoever, is this someone who cannot respect the basics of human dignity?” the MEP continued to ask. She went on to speculate that, in this case, it might be someone who wants revenge for all the good things that the government of Janez Janša did in the previous mandate. “I am sure that for such a heinous act, you need all of the above,” she added.

“Abolishing the Day of Remembrance and denying the victims their right to the grave is an act of weakness. It is an act of those who act from positions of power and want to silence what cannot be silenced,” Romana Tomc argued.

She reminded the Chair of the Committee on Petitions that this petition has been signed by more than 2,000 people, making it one of the most successful petitions of last year. “It is a cry for help,” as the relatives of the murdered hope that they will at least be heard by Members of the European Parliament.

Romana Tomc suggested to the Chair of the Committee, as did some of the speakers before her, that the Committee should call on the government of Robert Golob to reverse its decision and reinstate a Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence. She then suggested to the Committee that it should also call on the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia to discuss and finally ratify the European Parliament’s resolution on Conscience and Totalitarianism.

At the end of the discussion, Dr Ferenc said that he would take the words of some of the panellists back to his homeland. “We know that resistance to fascism and Nazism is a highly ethical act, and we recognise that. But we must also recognise the victims of communism who still lie unburied in thousands of caves. […] We sincerely wish that attitudes towards this would change in my country.”

The debate was closed by the Chair of the Committee, Dolors Montserrat, who said that she supported the petitioners and the petition itself.

MEP Tomc: We have achieved more than we expected

After the end of the session, MEP Romana Tomc summed up her feelings in a post on the social network X: “The session of the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions is over. We have achieved more than we could have expected. An excellent, emotional speech by Dr Mitja Ferenc. Amazing reactions from European Union’s MEPs who scolded the government of the Republic of Slovenia.”

As she pointed out, important decisions were taken at the end, namely that the petition would remain open for further proceedings, that the Government of the Republic of Slovenia would be called upon to reverse the shameful decision to abolish the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communist Violence, that the material would also be sent to a special committee of the European Parliament for consideration, and that the European Commission would be required to prepare a written reply.

Ž. K.

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