Scarce Palaeogene sediment remnants in the Eastern Alps and Western Carpathians are interpreted as remains of a continuous forearc basin. New apatite fission-track geochronological data corroborate mild Paleocene–Eocene exhumation and relief formation in the Eastern Alps. Palinspastic restoration and nine palaeogeographical maps of the Eastern Alps and Western Carpathians ranging from the Paleocene to the Late Oligocene epoch illustrate west to east migration of subsidence in the forearc basin. Subsidence isochrons indicate that oblique subduction of the European plate below the Adriatic plate was responsible for forearc basin migration at a rate of 8 mm a−1. The Periadriatic Lineament was formed as a result of shearing by oblique subduction. The Neogene to recent Sumatra forearc basin is an analogue for the evolution of the East Alpine–West Carpathian forearc basin.