The situation under the former communist regimes for new social movements, like the environmental movement, was complicated. The issue of environmental protection was almost the only political critic that was more or less acceptable for the communist governments. [Mol, 1993, p. 87] Universities were among the first institutions where the concerns about the devastating environmental situation grew and became common. Scientists could use their relative big access to environmental data, which was definitely a privilege from the state. In some countries journalists had a key role in opening up secret information on environmental issues.[Fisher et al., 1991, p. 183] A remarkable early involvement with environmental issues from some CEE scientists was shown at the UN conference on human environment in 1974 in Stockholm [Fisher et al., 1991, p. 39], but this involvement did not mean that an active environmental movement was established already. The process of political decay, manifested in increasing environmental deterioration and in a growing alienation between the state and scientists and society, was one of the primary reasons for emergence of politically active environmental groups in the 1980s. [Fisher et al., 1991, p. 186]
After the political changes in the CEE countries, during 1989 - 1990, the environmental movement could maturate.[Fisher et al. 1991, p.193; Siegel and Yancey, 1992, p.19] But of course the environmental deterioration was not the only problem in the former communist countries.[van der Schot, 1993, p. 12] Especially the financial and economical transition to the market economy swallowed all political interest. The social and political interest for environmental issues decreased within some years after the changes. Just as the political influence of the former oppositional environmental organizations.[van der Schot, 1993, p. 29] Around 1990, most environmental NGOs were (re)starting after the political changes and trying to find their position in the political system as ecological parties and in society as independent citizen groups. The organizations had usually a quite informal character and they were not very well structured and organized.
Right after the political changes and sometimes already before them, Western countries started to contact and help (some of) the CEE countries. These were not only governmental contacts, but also civil actions, contacts and help. [Siegel and Yancey, 1992, p. 49] Several Western environmental NGOs started or eventually continued to support the environmental movement in CEE countries with financial funds, information and education. [van der Schot, 1993, p. 17] The environmental organizations in CEE were of course willing to accept this Western support. East-West cooperation could come forth from this 'help-relationship' between East and West. A result of this history is obviously that East-West cooperation was more likely to be established than East-East cooperation. The European environmental movement seemed to forget about possibilities for East-East cooperation. [REC 6, 1994, p. 5] This research is focused on the 'forgotten' East-East cooperation.