When joining the European Union - as the former Communist countries have done since 2004 — nations are asked to pledge support to a raft of so-called European values, including open markets, transparent government, respect for an independent media, open borders, cultural diversity, protection of minorities and a rejection of xenophobia.
But the reality is that the former Communist states have proved sluggish in actually absorbing many of these values and practicing them. Oligarchs, cronyism and endemic corruption remain a part of daily life in many of the countries, freedom of the press is in decline while rising nationalism and populist political movements have stirred anti-immigrant tensions.
"This refugee flow has outraged the right wing,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “If you scratch the surface, why are they so upset? It’s not about jobs or the ability to manage them or social welfare. What it is really about is that they are Muslim.”
Unlike countries in Western Europe, which have long histories of accepting immigrants from diverse cultures, the former Communist states tend to be highly homogeneous. Poland, for instance, is 98 percent white and 94 percent Catholic.
As for the region’s seeming indifference to the migrants’ plight, that is partly because unlike France, Britain and Germany, the former Communist states have no history of colonialism, he said.
“The attitude is: We didn’t meddle in these countries that are now sending the refugees, like other nations did, and so we have no sense of guilt about our obligation to deal with them,” Mr. Zaborowski said.
And all of these attitudes blend together into a common aversion to being told what to do by Brussels.