International Cooperation

Visegrad Fund



Establishment and activities of the Working group on the Platform of European Memory and Conscience under the leadership of the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes

New member states joining the European Union in 2004 introduced a new issue to the community of democratic nations – the legacy of communism. From the moment of the accession of post-communist states, if not earlier, this legacy became an integral part of common European heritage. The insufficient coming to terms with the past is an important issue for the post-communist states and they see in the enlarged European Union a new level on which it will be possible to tackle it with joined forces. This was demonstrated by the first East European Presidency of the European Union.

On 8 April, 2008, the Slovenian EU Presidency together with the European Commission organised a European public hearing in Brussels on the topic „Crimes committed by totalitarian regimes“. Pavel Žáček, Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, participated in the hearing.

Pavel Žáček and 1st Deputy Director Miroslav Lehký represented the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes at the international conference „European Conscience and Communism“ hosted by the Committee on Education, Science, Culture, Human Rights and Petitions of the Senate, Parliament of the Czech Republic on 2-3 June, 2008, and organised by Senator Martin Mejstřík in cooperation with Jana Hybášková, Member of the European Parliament.

At this conference, the Prague Declaration[1] was adopted which in 19 points calls for a pan-European and international coming to terms with communist totalitarian rule in a way similar to the way the Nazi dictatorship was dealt with. One of the demands of the Prague Declaration is the establishment of an Institute of European Memory and Conscience „which would be both - A) a European research institute for totalitarianism studies, developing scientific and educational projects and providing support to networking of national research institutes specialising in the subject of totalitarian experience, B) and a pan-European museum/memorial of victims of all totalitarian regimes, with an aim to memorialise victims of these regimes and raise awareness of the crimes committed by them.

The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes decided to rise to the challenge and, as a part of the preparations for the Czech Presidency of the European Council, in cooperation with 1st Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra, to address all EU member states with an invitation to a joint establishment of a Platform of European Memory and Conscience. Responses on Government level were received, as well as responses on the level of institutions with a scope similar to that of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. None of the reactions was negative, with countries with a totalitarian past showing greater interest than those which never experienced a dictatorship.
Together with the Office of the Government, the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes hosted a working meeting on 10-11 November 2008 in the Lichtenštejn Palace in Prague. Representatives of nineteen states and twelve partner institutions took part in the discussions and decided to form a working group.

The Working group on the Platform of European Memory and Conscience which is being coordinated by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes since then, today counts 35 institutions and organisations from nineteen European countries.

In the meantime, the Prague Declaration was joined by several dozen Members of the European Parliament from different political factions.
Around these MEPs, an informal working group was established in the European Parliament in 2010, called „Reconciliation of European Histories“[2]. The group is led by former Latvian EU Commissioner and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sandra Kalniete. It has members from 16 states and all factions of the European Parliament except the GUE/NGL. The Working group on the Platform of European Memory and Conscience cooperates closely with it.

During the Czech EU Presidency, the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes together with the Office of the Government and with assistance of the office of Jana Hybášková, MEP, organised a public hearing in the European Parliament called „European Conscience and Crimes of Totalitarian Communism: 20 Years After.“ The hearing which took place on 18 March, 2009 had a specialist session and a session in which European politicians and representatives of the European Commission spoke. In the final document, the participants confirmed the call for the creation of a Platform of European Memory and Conscience.

The Prague Declaration and the conclusions from this hearing served as the basis for the historically first resolution of the European Parliament dealing with coming to terms with the communist dictatorship, namely the resolution „On European Conscience and Totalitarianism“ of 2 April 2009[3] which was adopted by 553:44:33 votes[4]. The Resolution has 17 points, among them all the demands from the hearing organised by the Czech Republic.

In its answer to this Resolution of the European Parliament, the European Commission expressed its support to the project of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience.

An important milestone for the initiative of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes was then the session of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the EU (GAERC) under the presidency of Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout. In the conclusions of 15 June, 2009[6], the Council welcomes the initiative to establish the Platform of European Memory and Conscience and requests the Commission to provide financial instruments for this work.

Members of the Working group on the Platform of European Memory and Conscience met in Brussels on 18 January, 2010 to present the Working group at a press conference in the seat of the Council of Europe and to negotiate the Statute of the organisation at the Czech Centre.

On 24-26 February, 2010, members of the Working group on the Platform of European Memory and Conscience met in Prague at an international conference „Crimes of the Communist Regimes“ which they jointly prepared and which took place in the Senate, Parliament of the Czech Republic and at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic under the auspices of Prime Minister Jan Fischer, the Deputy Presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate and several Members of the European Parliament. At the conference, national reports on crimes against humanity committed by the state power during the era of the communist dictatorship were presented and a final eleven-point Declaration on Crimes of Communism[7] was adopted, which, i.a., calls for a pan-European ban on the denial of crimes of communism and the creation of a new international court in the EU for the crimes of communism.

In its Report to the Parliament and the Council of 22 December, 2010 on "The memory of the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes in Europe"[8], the European Commission presents the Platform of European Memory and Conscience in Chapter 3.3. as one of the initiatives at EU level and suggests that after one year of formal legal existence, the Platform could be eligible to apply for an annual operating grant under the Europe for Citizens programme.

Currently, a proposal of the Statute regulating the inner functioning of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience is ready, approved by the Working group.

The Working group met in Brussels on 28 March, 2011 and agreed to proceed to establish the Platform of European Memory and Conscience as an international association of legal entitites.

The Czech Republic included the foundation of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience as one of the priorities of the Czech presidency of the Visegrad group which will take place from 07/2011 – 06/2012.

Dr. Neela Winkelmann-Heyrovská
Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague
1 June, 2011

Agreement on cooperation (Press Releases)

International Conference


[1] Website www.prazskadeklarace.eu / www.praguedeclaration.org. On this site and on Facebook , over 11,000 signatories from all around the world have joined the Declaration until today, among them many international personalities and Members of the European Parliament.

[2] http://eureconciliation.wordpress.com/

[3] The Resolution text in English can be found at www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P6-TA-2009-0213+0+DOC+XML+V0//CS

[4] Projednání tohoto usnesení je shrnuto na www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/FindByProcnum.do?lang=en&procnum=RSP/2009/2557

[6] www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/gena/108527.pdf, str. 17

[7] www.crimesofcommunism.eu/declaration.html , www.zlocinykomunismu.eu/deklarace.html

[8] http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/reding/pdf/com(2010)_873_1_en_act_part1_v61.pdf