- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

BRUSSELS — A group of European Union lawmakers from Eastern Europe have called for a ban on communist symbols, including the red star and the hammer and sickle, to match a proposed EU ban on the Nazi swastika.

The group from Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic said the communist symbols should be included in any ban because of the suffering caused by Soviet-backed regimes in Eastern Europe.

“We would like to have an equal treatment of the other evil totalitarian regime of the communist system,” Jozsef Szajer, a Hungarian member of the European Parliament, said last Thursday.

EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini has proposed a continentwide ban on the display of swastikas and other Nazi symbols as part of a campaign to combat anti-Semitism and intolerance.

“If we decide to ban one, we should decide to ban all of them,” said Jan Zahradil, a Czech member of the EU assembly.

Mr. Frattini’s spokesman, Friso Roscam Abbing, said the EU head office was not at this time pushing for a similar ban on communist symbols.

“He is completely aware of the pain [communist rule] has caused,” Mr. Roscam Abbing said.

But including the hammer and sickle alongside the swastika “might not be appropriate” under the anti-racism rules being negotiated, he said, noting that the Nazi swastika was seen as a symbol of anti-Semitism.

“It warrants further political debate,” he said.

Justice and interior ministers from the 25 EU nations will discuss at a meeting this month the banning of Nazi symbols. The proposals need agreement from all EU governments.

Former Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis, who led his country out of the Soviet Union, said the hammer and sickle also was a symbol of oppression.

“It was a fake symbol of unity of workers and farmers,” he said.

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