Tuesday

26th May 2020

Letter

Eastern Europe 'must not deny help' to refugees

  • Refugees on the highway from Budapest to Austria. "In refusing to help, we deny the idea of European solidarity," says the appeal by 100 personalities (Photo: International Federation of Red Cross)

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.

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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 co-existing 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 the freedom to choose their own future.

Signatories

Bronisław Komorowski, president of Poland from 2010 to 2015

Aleksander Kwaśniewski, president of Poland from 1995 to 2005

Jerzy Baczyński, editor-in-chief of the "Polityka" weekly, Poland

Gordon Bajnai, former prime minister, Hungary

Mirosław Bałka, sculptor, Poland

Zuzana Bargerova, lawyer, Human Rights League, Slovakia

Zygmunt Bauman, sociologist, University of Leeds, Poland-Great Britain

Igor Blaževič, founder of One World Festival

Uldis Bērziņš, poet and interpreter, Latvia

Henryka Bochniarz, president of Konfederacja Lewiatan, Poland

Michał 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

Bogusław Chrabota, editor-in-chief of the "Rzeczpospolita" daily, Poland

Włodzimierz 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

Władysław Frasyniuk, former dissident and member of parliament, Poland

Rajko Grlić, 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, ".týždeň." weekly, Slovakia

Michal Hvorecký, writer, Slovakia

Ivars Ījabs, political scientist, Latvia

Josef Jařab, former senator, rector emeritus of Palacký University in Olomous, Czech Republic

Leszek Jażdżewski, editor-in-chief of the "Liberté!" quarterly, Poland

Jerzy Jedlicki, historian of ideas, former dissident, Poland

Jana Juráňová, 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 Kozłowska, 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

Jarosław Kuisz, editor-in-chief of the "Kultura Liberalna" internet weekly, Poland

Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, director of the Stefan Batory Foundation, chairman of the European Foundation Centre

Tomasz Lis, editor-in-chief of the "Newsweek Polska" weekly, Poland

Ondřej Liška, former minister of education, chairman of the Green Party, Czech Republic

Ewa Łętowska, former ombudsman, Poland

Vita Matiss, political analyst, essayist, Latvia

Jiří 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 "Więź" monthly , Poland

Janina Ochojska, president of Polish Humanitarian Action, Poland

Andrzej Olechowski, former finance minister and minister of foreign affairs, Poland

Jurica Pavičić, writer, Croatia

Marta Pardavi, co-chair, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary

Solomon Passy, former minister of foreign affairs, Bulgaria

Jiří 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

Sławomir Sierakowski, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies, Poland

Martin Milan Šimečka, writer, journalist, Slovakia-Czech Republic

Marta Šimečková, 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

Małgorzata Szczęśniak, set designer, Poland

Monika Sznajderman, editor, Wydawnictwo Czarne, Poland

Soňa 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 Teršelič, director of Documenta - Centre for Dealing with the Past, Slovenia

Róża von Thun und Hohenstein, member of European Parliament, Poland

Dubravka Ugrešić, 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 Wygnański, 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

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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