BRUSSELS, Belgium – A group of conservative European Union lawmakers from eastern Europe called Thursday 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.
EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini (search) has proposed a Europe-wide ban on display of the 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 (search), a Czech member of the EU assembly.
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 this [communist rule] has caused," 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 the Nazi swastika was seen as a symbol specifically associated with anti-Semitism.
"It warrants further political debate," he said.
Justice and interior ministers from the 25 EU nations will discuss the banning of Nazi symbols at a meeting this month. The proposals need agreement from all EU governments.
Former Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis (search), who led his country out of the Soviet Union, said the hammer and sickle was also a symbol of oppression.
"It was a fake symbol of unity of workers and farmers," he said.
Last week's commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz (search) Nazi concentration camp highlighted the growing problem of xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Europe.
Also, pictures showing Britain's Prince Harry (search) wearing a Nazi swastika armband at a costume party last month added to EU calls to ban all Nazi symbols across Europe.