Greece's leftist justice minister raised eyebrows in the country at the end of the week by declining an invitation to an international conference in Tallinn, Estonia that will include a session entitled "The Heritage in 21st Century Europe of the Crimes Committed by Communist Regimes".
Greek minister Stavros Kontonis turned down the invitation and claimed, in a written statement, that the conference lacks "specific content and (its) title sends a wrong and dangerous political message ... (it) revives a Cold War climate, which brought so much suffering to Europe, runs contrary to the values of the EU and certainly does not reflect the view of the Greek government and Greek people, namely, that Nazism and Communism can never exist as the two parts of the same equation."
According to a press release by the Estonian presidency, "August 23 is observed as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Communist and Nazi Regimes. The pan-European Remembrance Day was instituted in April 2009 by the European Parliament Resolution of 2 April 2009 on European conscience and totalitarianism.
"Within the framework of the Remembrance Day, European Ministers of Justice and representatives of associations of victims of totalitarianism as well as representatives of state and private institutions and organizations that study the crimes of totalitarian regimes and record remembrance of victims of such regimes convene in European capitals on August 23 every year. This year’s meeting takes place in Tallinn for the second time ever. The European Day of Remembrance event was also held in Tallinn in 2015."
Kontonis, an attorney who is elected from the Ionian island of Zakynthos, first made national headlines in Greece in 1999 when he served as a "prosecutor" of a "people's court" that convened to "try" then US President Bill Clinton of what it termed "crimes" related to what far-left activists called "imperialist crimes" by the United States.
The NATO-led bombing of Serbian forces in the Kosovo province had previously generated sharp criticism in Greece by all political forces.
The "people's court" was held in Syntagma Square and coincided with the US president's one-day visit to the Greek capital.