Since the beginning of the eighties the Slovakian groups have started to be more progressive and politically active. Besides nature conservation more socio-cultural activities became important. During the communist reign the publication of environmental information was forbidden, this information was considered a state secret. The more political approach of SZOPK and Strom Zivota started with the publication of sensitive environmental information in their bulletins. After the changes at the end of 1989 many of SZOPK activist left the environmental movement to lead the political changes in Slovakia. After the changes both SZOPK and Strom Zivota returned to their original status of political independence.
New laws have attacked the NGO community in both the Czech and Slovak Republics, currently, SZOPK and Strom Zivota don't get state subsidies anymore to pay their staffs. SZOPK tried to adapt to the new situation, but couldn't manage the big structural changes needed. Strom Zivota was able to fit the organization in the recent situation, by focusing on environmental education and successful external fund-raising.
The latest threat to the Slovakian NGO community is the governmental plan for a so called 'Third Sector Law'. This law will implement restrictions and difficulties for almost all Slovakian NGOs.
After the changes many activists from the environmental movement moved to the new government, so that 'old' NGOs lost a lot of active volunteers. SZOPK and Strom Zivota are still two of the biggest environmental NGOs in Slovakia, but also new, more active, groups were established. East-West cooperation became very popular after the changes, the Czech NGOs established these relations especially fast. Slovakia was slower to develop these relationships and is a bit behind in this development, mainly because of the developmental problems of Slovakian NGOs.
It were Slovakian nationalistic politics that ended in the splitting up of the Czechoslovakian Federation.
Currently, East-East cooperation exists, but not very much. It pertains mostly to transboundary issues, river clean-up and nature conservation projects, are the biggest reasons for East-East cooperation. Sadly, the cooperation with the Czech Republic is on a very low level, except for cooperation of NGOs in a border crossing area, as for example in the White Carpathian Mountains.
An advantage of East-East cooperation over East-West cooperation is the fact that the cultural and historical gaps between CEE countries are smaller than the big differences between Western and Eastern European societies. The further East, the more difficult it probably is, for Westerners to understand the people and the situation.
A social-psychological obstacle from the Slovakian side towards the Czech people could be the lack of self-confidence of some of the Slovaks.
Practical problems like border formalities with Ukraine and a lack of money for establishing sustainable contacts have to be mentioned as well. Many NGOs are too busy with surviving, and have no capacity left to start East-East cooperation. Finally and unfortunately, it is still more attractive for a Slovakian NGO to find a Western partner than to put a lot of energy in East-East cooperation.
A common language is needed as well, but for the Slovakian NGOs this is not a big problem since Slovaks understand most languages of the surrounding countries, including some Hungarian. Finally, if the problems mentioned can be solved it will be easier to facilitate East-East cooperation.
In order to promote East-East cooperation personal meetings among NGO people have to be organized. These meetings will be the most efficient when they are based on a particular environmental topic, or focused on gaining cooperative skills.
As the amount of East-East cooperative projects increase, the future will look much better. Finally the Slovaks will find out that they have cultural and historical ties in common with their neighbors, especially the Czechs. Cooperation in Central Europe is natural when there are no major political obstacles, these contacts will occur, and East-East cooperation of Slovakian NGOs will grow.