Jacques Rupnik at Eurozine:
So, the first paradox is that those countries, which, after half-a-century of confinement, consider the greatest achievement of the 1989 revolutions to be freedom of movement, now refuse to apply that principle to non-Europeans. Whilst, for twenty years, they have been enthusiastic about globalization (the slogan for the Czech presidency of the EU in 2009 was “Europe without barriers”), today they are calling for a “Europe that protects” (the slogan of the French presidency in 2008). The second paradox is that, once upon a time, the pro-democracy uprisings in central and eastern Europe that were put down by Moscow gave rise to waves of refugees. More than 200,000 Hungarians fled from the Soviet tanks in 1956 and found a welcome in Austria and subsequently in the rest of Europe to which no one objected. The same occurred with the Czechs and Slovaks after the 1968 invasion and the Poles after 1981, when the repressive regime was bearing down on the Solidarnosc movement. But what now? Is this amnesia or is solidarity supposed to remain solely intra-European?
There are two factors that help us to better understand the situation as seen from the “Other Europe”. Historically, the countries of central and eastern Europe have, since the end of the nineteenth century, been lands of emigration and not immigration. Since 1989, almost one million Poles, Slovaks and citizens of the Baltic States have arrived in the United Kingdom and northern Europe. Romania and Bulgaria have seen about fifteen per cent of their population leave for southern EU countries. But, most importantly, these nations were built on the ruins of multi-national empires (Hapsburg, Ottoman, Russian); they began as nation-states that were nothing of the kind.