The state agencies serving as custodians of the vast files kept by the intelligence services of East Germany, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria agreed to compare experience and share information.
“We seek to be a forum for the mutual exchange and transfer of information: this applies to the archives, the legal regulations, historical-political education and public relations,” the signatories for the new European Network of Official Authorities in Charge of the Secret Police Files said in Berlin.
“(This) involves coming to terms with the past in a European, an international context.”
The representatives acknowledged that each country had chosen different ways to administer the files since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 in terms of granting access, conducting criminal investigations and vetting political candidates.
But they said they could benefit from each other’s experiences in the nearly two decades since the collapse of European communism in grappling with the legacy of state spying against citizens and police repression.
“We know the former state security authorities were collaborating very closely and very intensively – they exchanged their experiences, their methods and their connections,” the Hungarian representative, Gergo Bendeguz Cseh, told reporters. “So we warmly welcome this international cooperation now.”
The network said it aimed to focus in particular on academic research and education in schools as key parts of the “transformation processes taking place after the fall of dictatorships worldwide”.
It said it also wanted to define minimum requirements for access to the secret police files and hold an annual conference among member countries.