An appeal from Central Europe on the refugee crisis

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Refugees at Keleti railway station. Budapest, 17 September. [Guillaume Roth]

Unlike the former colonial powers, Central European states have little experience of co-existing with people of different cultures. But in refusing to help, they undermine the solidarity that other nations have shown towards them, write politicians, artists and intellectuals from Central Europe.

This open letter was sent to EURACTIV by the Stefan Batory Foundation, an independent private Polish foundation established in 1988 by American philanthropist George Soros and a group of Polish democratic opposition leaders of the 1980s.

We are facing a humanitarian crisis on an enormous scale. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa are attempting to reach Europe in search of safety, hope, and the chance to lead a normal life. Not so long ago, we were the ones knocking on Europe’s door.

We must not deny them our help. Regrettably, there are many in our region who disagree. After 1989, there were doubts in the European Community regarding the capacity of Central European countries, from the Baltic States through Romania and Bulgaria, to integrate with the West, owing to our history, political traditions, and the state of our economies. Yet, our part of Europe has not been the principal cause of the threats to the Union in this difficult decade.

But this rift within a united Europe resurfaces today. This time it has a moral dimension. It is true, we are not accountable for the instability and collapse of refugees’ home countries. We are not the ones who have turned them into states plagued by incessant fear, where people are at risk of violent death, and where human life is “solitary, poor, brutish, and short”. Unlike the former colonial and imperial powers that took in large numbers of immigrants after the Second World War, we have little experience of coexisting with people of different cultures, from far-off lands.

Nonetheless, as human beings, we have a duty to show compassion and to provide them with assistance. This is also our duty as Europeans. The European community was founded on the principle of solidarity. Today we must not refuse to take joint responsibility for the Union, nor turn a blind eye to human suffering and the situation of countries most affected by the rising tide of migration.

In refusing to help, we deny the idea of European solidarity. Furthermore, we undermine the solidarity that other nations have shown towards our countries. That would erode the foundations on which, for the past 25 years, we have been building our security, our prospects for development and our hope of escaping the historical tribulations of war, foreign rule, and poverty.

In the name of our humanity, our principles and values, we call upon the authorities and people of our region to demonstrate practical solidarity towards refugees so that they may find safe haven in our midst and enjoy freedom to choose their own future.

  • Bronis?aw Komorowski, president of Poland from 2010 to 2015
  • Aleksander Kwa?niewski, president of Poland from 1995 to 2005
  • Jerzy Baczy?ski, editor-in-chief of the “Polityka” weekly, Poland
  • Gordon Bajnai, former prime minister, Hungary
  • Miros?aw Ba?ka, sculptor, Poland
  • Zuzana Bargerova, lawyer, Human Rights League, Slovakia
  • Zygmunt Bauman, sociologist, University of Leeds, Poland-Great Britain
  • Igor Blaževi?, founder of One World Festival
  • Uldis B?rzi?š, poet and interpreter, Latvia
  • Henryka Bochniarz, president of Konfederacja Lewiatan, Poland
  • Micha? Boni, member of European Parliament, former minister of administration and digitalization, Poland
  • Marek Borowski, senator, former finance minister, vice prime minister and Marshal of the Sejm
  • Bogdan Borusewicz, marshall of the Senate, Poland
  • Martin Bútora, sociologist, adviser to the president, Slovakia
  • Bogus?aw Chrabota, editor-in-chief of the “Rzeczpospolita” daily, Poland
  • W?odzimierz Cimoszewicz, former prime minister, Poland
  • Liudas Dapkus, deputy editor-in-chief of the “Lietuvos rytas” daily, Lithuania
  • Aleš Debeljak, poet and essayist, Slovenia
  • Pavol Demeš, former minister of foreign affairs, Slovakia
  • Tibor Dessewffy, president of DEMOS Hungary, Hungary
  • Ivaylo Ditchev, professor of social science, writer, Bulgaria
  • Magda Faltová, director, Association for Integration and Migration, Czech Republic
  • W?adys?aw Frasyniuk, former dissident and member of parliament, Poland
  • Rajko Grli?, director, Croatia
  • István Gyarmati, diplomat, Hungary
  • Tomáš Halík, theologian and writer, Czech Republic
  • Agnes Heller, philosopher, Hungary
  • Agnieszka Holland, director, Poland
  • Štefan Hríb, editor-in-chief, “.týžde?.” weekly, Slovakia
  • Michal Hvorecký, writer, Slovakia
  • Ivars ?jabs, political scientist, Latvia
  • Josef Ja?ab, former senator, rector emeritus of Palacký University in Olomous, Czech Republic
  • Leszek Ja?d?ewski, editor-in-chief of the „Liberté!” quarterly, Poland
  • Jerzy Jedlicki, historian of ideas, former dissident, Poland
  • Jana Jurá?ová, writer, Slovakia
  • Aleksander Kaczorowski, journalist and essayist, Poland
  • Éva Karádi, editor-in chief of the “Magyar Lettre Internationale” quarterly, Hungary
  • Dávid Korányi, former undersecretary of state, deputy director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Hungary-United States
  • János Kornai, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University and Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  • András Kováts, director, Menedék – Hungarian Association for Migrants, Hungary
  • Dominika Koz?owska, editor-in-chief of the “Znak” monthly, Poland
  • Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Bulgaria
  • Marcin Król, historian of ideas, University of Warsaw, Poland
  • Andrius Kubilius, former prime minister, Lithuania
  • Jaros?aw Kuisz, editor-in-chief of the “Kultura Liberalna” internet weekly, Poland
  • Ewa Kulik-Bieli?ska, director of the Stefan Batory Foundation, chairman of the European Foundation Centre
  • Tomasz Lis, editor-in-chief of the “Newsweek Polska” weekly, Poland
  • Ond?ej Liška, former minister of education, chairman of the Green Party, Czech Republic
  • Ewa ??towska, former ombudsman, Poland
  • Vita Matiss, political analyst, essayist, Latvia
  • Ji?í Menzel, director, Czech Republic
  • Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of the “Gazeta Wyborcza” daily, Poland
  • Piotr Mucharski, editor-in-chief of the “Tygodnik Powszechny” weekly, Poland
  • Alvydas Nikžentaitis, president of Lithuanian National Historians Committee, Lithuania
  • Zbigniew Nosowski, editor-in-chief of the “Wi??” monthly , Poland
  • Janina Ochojska, president of Polish Humanitarian Action, Poland
  • Andrzej Olechowski, former finance minister and minister of foreign affairs, Poland
  • Jurica Pavi?i?, writer, Croatia
  • Marta Pardavi, co-chair, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary
  • Solomon Passy, former minister of foreign affairs, Bulgaria
  • Ji?í Pehe, political scientist and writer, Czech Republic
  • Petr Pithart, former prime minister, Czech Republic
  • Adam Pomorski, president of the Polish PEN Club, Poland
  • Wojciech Przybylski, editor-in-chief “Respublica Nowa” and “Eurozine”, Austria-Poland
  • László Rajk jr., architect, designer and political activist, Hungary
  • Rein Raud, author and cultural theorist, Estonia
  • Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former minister of foreign affairs, Poland
  • Martin Rozumek, director, Organization for Aid to Refugees, Czech Republic
  • Andrzej Seweryn, theatre actor and director, Poland
  • S?awomir Sierakowski, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies, Poland
  • Martin Milan Šime?ka, writer, journalist, Slovakia-Czech Republic
  • Marta Šime?ková, journalist, interpreter, Slovakia
  • Karel Schwarzenberg, former minister of foreign affairs, Czech Republic
  • Aleksander Smolar, chairman of the Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland
  • Ladislav Snopko, playwright, former minister of culture, Slovakia
  • Andrzej Stasiuk, writer, Poland
  • Petruška Šustrová, former dissident, Czech Republic
  • Jerzy Szacki, sociologist, University of Warsaw, Poland
  • Ma?gorzata Szcz??niak, set designer, Poland
  • Monika Sznajderman, editor, Wydawnictwo Czarne, Poland
  • So?a Szomolányi, political scientist and sociologist, Slovakia
  • Erik Tabery, editor-in-chief of the “Respekt” weekly, Czech Republic
  • Béla Tarr, director, Hungary
  • Stefan Tafrov, diplomat, human rights activist, Bulgaria
  • Vesna Teršeli?, director of Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past, Slovenia
  • Ró?a von Thun und Hohenstein, member of European Parliament, Poland
  • Dubravka Ugreši?, poet and essayist, Croatia
  • Rimvydas Valatka, journalist, former member of parliament, Lithuania
  • Magdaléna Vášáryová, member of parliament, Slovakia
  • Tomas Venclova, poet, Lithuania
  • Krzysztof Warlikowski, theatre director, Poland
  • Jakub Wygna?ski, chairman of the board, Unit for Social Innovation and Research – Shipyard, Poland
  • Adam Zagajewski, poet and essayist, University of Chicago, Poland-United States
  • Péter Zilahy, writer, Hungary
  • Andrzej Zoll, former president of the Constitutional Tribunal, Poland

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