The Slovenia Times

MEPs debate petition to remember Slovenian victims of communism

An event in Congress Square in 2015 commemorated victims of WWII and post-war killings by Communists. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

A petition by a Slovenian historian that urges the Slovenian authorities to bring back a memorial day for victims of communist violence was debated by the European Parliament's Petitions Committee on 14 February. The committee will forward the petition to the European Commission and the Slovenian government.

The petition refers to the National Day of Remembrance of the Victims for Communist Violence, which was declared by the right-wing government of Janez Janša in May 2022 as one of its last acts before leaving office, despite protests by several historians.

The Robert Golob government cancelled the memorial day a year later with the argument that it was declared without public or expert debate.

Petition signed by 2,000 people

The petition was submitted to the Petitions Committee by the historian Mitja Ferenc, one of Slovenia's pre-eminent experts on post-WWII summary executions perpetrated by communist authorities, and accepted for consideration in December.

Since then it has been signed by almost 2,000 people. According to committee chair Dolors Montserrat, this is the highest number of signatures any petition submitted last year had received.

Ferenc told the committee Slovenia treated victims of communist violence differently than victims of Nazism and Fascism; they have neither the right to a grave, nor the right to a death certificate, he said.

According to him, more than 700 locations of concealed graves have been recorded in the 33 years since independence, but human remains have been fully or partly exhumed from only 100 of them. "Most of these, however, are still in storage and unburied."

By cancelling the memorial day last year, the government "denied the existence of the victims" and "pushed them into non-existence and silence," he said. The petitioners turned to the European Parliament because their appeals to the government have not been successful.

"By commemorating the largely not talked about victims of communism, nobody will lose, but as a society we would end the ideological pigeonholing of the dead to those who are 'ours' and those who deserve neither a grave nor memory," he said.

Mixed reactions among Slovenian MEPs

Several committee members endorsed the petition in the debate highlighting the importance of the culture of remembrance. Romana Tomc, the Slovenian MEP for the right-wing Democrats (SDS) who has helped shepherd the petition through parliament, described it as "a call for help by relatives of the victims who are ignored and ridiculed at home."

Other Slovenian MEPs had mixed reactions.

Franc Bogovič (EPP/SLS) wholeheartedly supports the petition. "It is completely incomprehensible to me that the government abolished the National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Communist Violence in Slovenia, and so it is right to draw attention to this government move, which goes against EU values, and discuss it in the European Parliament," he said.

Klemen Grošelj (Renew/Freedom Movement) and Matjaž Nemec (S&D/SD) meanwhile see it as part of the SDS's campaign for the EU elections in June.

The SDS is introducing ideological, domestic issues in the European Parliament to create divisions and encourage populist manoeuvres, said Nemec.

Grošelj agrees with the petitioners that the victims of the three ideologies - Nazism, Fascism and Communism - are an important topic, but he is sceptical about the need for the Parliament to discuss it, especially because the petition is "a clear manipulation" that is part of the SDS's election campaign and a way to score political points. Instead, the topic should be addressed in a respectful way, he added.

Irena Joveva (Renew/Freedom Movement) highlighted the importance of petitions, but said the issue "has been politicised for the purpose of ideological issues and cultural war". She would like to see the SDS put in the effort regarding other, more pertinent issues.

Ljudmila Novak (EPP/NSi) regrets that the issue was placed on the Petitions Committee's agenda, since she finds post-WWII summary executions, the burial of war and post-war victims and remembrance of them in Slovenia to be an issue that should be first addressed at the national level and not EU level.

She does not approve of attempts to abuse this topic for a political and ideological struggle, instead she would like to see all victims buried in a dignified manner. She agrees with those who have been pushing for Slovenian victims of communist violence to be buried at the Ljubljana Žale cemetery.


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