Important to realize is, that it is impossible to speak about the CEE countries as if they are a homogeneity. To focus the investigations it was necessary to cut down the diversity of the research population. So the first step in the selection process was to find a NGO population in a comparable situation being part of the CEE region. Such a population had to be comparable on both the development and stage of the environmental movement and the economical situation in the different countries. This was the case in the four Visegrad countries, which are the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.[Siegel and Yancey, 1992, p. 9]
The research population of East-East cooperating environmental NGOs originates from these four countries which together are also referred to as Central Europe.
With regard to this selection the following remarks have to be made. It seems logical that the political-historical factors throughout CEE have more or less the same communist and totalitarian origin. But a big difference in time in developing East-West contacts between the countries occurred. For the Visegrad countries the stage of East-West cooperation is at a front position in CEE and comparable among themselves. This is a big advantage because the Visegrad countries are considered opinion leaders in several ways in the region. The common expectation is that the other CEE countries will follow the Visegrad countries in their political and economical movement towards the EU. In this respect it is important to realize that the environmental policies in the four countries will have to develop, at a quick rate, towards EU policies. This means that the environmental NGOs in these countries have to anticipate on this development and thus have a front position with respect to lobbying, environmental policies of the EU, contacts with Western environmental NGOs and governments.
Social-economical factors might be a valid factor for all CEE countries as well, but of course differences exist in the gravity of the social-economical problems between the countries. The investigation of the particular social-economical situations of all CEE countries is far beyond the scope of this research, so it is preferable to find a comparable NGO population for this factor. This is the environmental NGO population of the Central Europe. Anyway, we can expect almost all environmental NGOs in CEE to mention a lack of resources as a problem in establishing East-East cooperation. [Siegel and Yancey, 1992, 16; Fisher et al., 1991, p. 11]
An interesting fact with respect to the social-economical factor is the role of funding organizations like the REC, EPCE and Milieukontakt Oost-Europa. Those organizations are actors in this field by giving grants to environmental NGOs which want to develop East-East cooperation. So the lack of resources, especially the financial ones, can be solved, if a NGO really wants them to be solved. In fact for example REC's Earmarked Grants Program experienced that this is not happening. They experience a lack of East-East cooperative projects applying for an Earmarked Grant. So from their point of view there must be more reasons than only a lack of financial support.
The next step in the process of selection of the NGOs was to find environmental NGOs which have at least tried to achieve East-East cooperation. Because NGOs that do not discuss East-East cooperation, will not have thought about advantages of, have experienced problems with or developed an attitude towards East-East cooperation. How are the requested East-East cooperative NGOs tracked down?
Out of the research population of all environmental NGOs in the Visegrad countries only a minority is East-East cooperating. Opinion leaders in the countries, like the country consultants and -coordinators of Milieukontakt Oost-Europa, the country directors of EPCE and the Local and Earmarked Grants Officers of the REC know a lot about the environmental NGO population in their respective countries. These so-called opinion leaders were asked to prepare a list of East-East cooperative NGOs. A comparison of these lists, together with the information available at the REC resulted in the list of NGOs needed for this research.
The selected NGOs are analyzed with a modified version of the checklist of van Noort. [van Noort, 1988, p. 48-49] History, structure, goals, resources, strategies and extern relationships are the five main characteristics in his analysis. Out of this checklist the first part of the questionnaire is prepared. [see Appendix I] The description of the general characteristics of an East-East cooperating NGO in 4.2 came forth from this analysis.
Half structured in-depth interviews are done in order to trace the experiences, problems, bottle-necks, advantages, facilitating and/or hindering factors for East-East cooperation. The interviews are held with leading persons in the NGOs, who worked with their group for a longer time. They were volunteer or employee, but all of them knew a lot about the history, policy (changes) and goals of their NGO. The highest quality of interviews is reached with face-to-face talks, so I interviewed 25 environmental activists in Central Europe. All requested interviews with all selected NGOs are done, nobody refused the interview. I went everywhere personally, so that the highly important factor of personal contact was fulfilled. The interviews are done by myself, with the assistance of a colleague from the RECs Earmarked Grants Team in two third of the cases. She took extra notes and was translator during one interview which was held in Hungarian. She did not interfere on the contents of the interview. The interviewed people were usually very enthusiastic, so that the interviews ran out of time, because they had so much information to share. Out of the 25 interviews, 20 were representing as much East-East cooperative NGOs, whereas the other five were general opinion leaders for the four countries. One Polish sociologist is added to four country consultants of Milieukontakt Oost-Europa as an opinion leader. These five gave an overview of the situation of the environmental movement in their countries, with respect to East-East cooperation.
Finally about 80% of the strongly recommended East-East cooperative NGOs could be interviewed. Strongly recommended means in this case mentioned by at least three of the five opinion leaders who all send the required list with East-East cooperative NGOs. Both the list of interviewed opinion leaders and the sample per country can be found in the annexes.