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Photograph: Photo by kropekk_pl, used under CC0

Former Bundestag member Vera Lengsfeld said in Zagreb on Thursday that Croatia should open the archives of the former Yugoslav communist secret service as was done in Germany.

Many problems in society are incited in the background by former power-wielders to prevent democratisation, she said at a round table called "Dealing with the legacy of totalitarian regimes - The experiences of Croatia and Germany", organised by the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

"This problem doesn't refer only to Croatia or Germany but to the entire Europe of open borders, which we created by demolishing the Berlin Wall," said Lengsfeld. In the late 1980s, as a civil rights activist and political prisoner in east Germany, she took part in organising mass protests that led to the fall of communism.

Even after the fall of East Germany, until dossiers were opened, former officers of the Stasi secret service blackmailed some artists and politicians, resulting in endless public disputes between politicians which were incited by members of the former communist service.

After the fall of communism, people thought it would disappear from politics, but "comrades" reorganised themselves because of the legacy and ownership benefits, Lengsfeld said.

She said it was never too late to open archives because that was the only way to heal societal wounds and that, without dealing with the totalitarian communist past, it would not be possible to preserve the project of a Europe of open borders.

The director of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation's Zagreb office, Michael Lange said access to the documents of East Germany's secret service had made it possible to shed light on its work and that this enabled Germany to overcome the past.

Croatian Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner said dealing with the communist past would make it possible to solve many issues in Croatia. "This dealing wouldn't mean going back to the past but overcoming it by revealing the truth, so that mass crimes don't reoccur."

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