This paper hypothesises that public support for the economic and political transformation in east-central Europe in 1989 was fuelled by enthusiasm for the reception of the (west) European Social Model, where the capitalist mode of production was combined with a high degree of social protection. In the first part of the article the author identifies the basic values of and the challenges to the European Social Model. Them he analyses the impact of the European Union on the transformation of east-central European social policy in the 1990s, and concludes that the negotiations concerning the accession of post-communist east-central European countries to the EU hardly contributed to the reception of the core values of the European Social Model in the new member states. Giving an overview of he social situation in the accession countries, the third part of the article calls the reader's attention to the alarming differences regarding the quality of life between the EU Fifteen and the new member states. In the final part, the author raises questions about the European Union's capacity to preserve the European Social Model, taking reactions of the members states to post-enlargement fears of social gaps between the east and west of Europe into consideration.