The environmental movement moved in a more serious direction when the Magyar Madártani Egyesület (MME, or Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society) was founded. This group emphasized practical nature protection and played an important role in the creation of other groups dealing with nature and environment issues all over the country. The role of the MME should not be exaggerated, but one cannot deny that many of the green organizations that came later grew up in its shadow. There were other, more holistic groups too. Bokor was a religious movement founded in 1945. It dealt with environmental issues, and preached a nonconsumption, alternative lifestyle that was later adopted by the Interdiszciplináris Tudományos Diákkör (ITDK, or Interdisciplinary Scientific Student Circle), founded in 1981. Its members organized and participated in lectures and workshops.
What we now call the Hungarian Green Movement started around the mid-1980s and involved two very distinct movements. The Danube movement, which was composed of Duna Kör (Danube Circle), A Dunáért Alapítvány (Foundation for the Danube), and Kékek (Blues), among others, involved itself in problems associated with the construction of the Gabcikova-Nagymaros dam. The other movement was formed around colleges and universities, or as county environmental movements, such as Göncöl Alapítvány in Vác, Holocén in Miskolc, ELTE Természetvédelmi Klub in Budapest, BME Zöld Kör in Budapest, E-MISSZIO in Nyíregyháza, REFLEX in Gyôr, and Mosonmagyaróvári Környezetvédôk in Mosonmagyaróvár. While members of the Danube movement directly confronted the one-party system, sometimes resulting in punitive retaliation such as job loss, the latter groups used milder forms of civil disobedience. There was a broad overlap between the two lines and they often cooperated with each other.
The Danube movement worked on one very broad and important issue - the issue of the dams. It played a decisive role in the political changes in Hungary, and its activists often faced the violence of the ruling party. For its efforts, Danube Circle received the alternative Nobel prize in 1985. The other movement, besides fighting to solve numerous local environmental problems, was busy acquiring and disseminating environmental information. There were several possible ways to accomplish this, such as approaching schools or distributing publications. ELTE Klub, with the cooperation of Czech, Slovak and Polish activists, set up an Eastern European environmental network called Greenway.
The development of the Hungarian movement changed its course in an interesting way when the KISZ KB (The Central Committee of the Communist Youth Alliance) created the Ifjúsági Környezetvédelmi Tanács (Youth Environmental Council, or YEC). YEC helped environmental activities in some cases, but at other times hindered them. The hierarchical power structure of the Council destroyed the development of horizontal, networking cooperation between groups because it operated under the principle of centralized authority. At this point, a power struggle erupted in the movement. The centralizing efforts of YEC led to the creation of Magyar Természetvédôk Szövetsége (National Society of Conservationists) and the Magyar Zöld Párt (Hungarian Green Party1). The number of groups increased significantly as political changes neared, and YEC's centralizing efforts became considerably milder. It was even ready to take a position on such formerly taboo issues as the Danube dams and was willing to organize an open forum on the planned nuclear waste disposal site in Ofalu.
Political changes had a distinct effect on the movement. First, discussion over the creation of the Green Party resulted in fierce debate within the movement, and because of the resulting internal conflict the party didn't obtain enough votes to have a member of parliament. Later, when the new political system was established, most of those who used the movement as a vehicle to get into Parliament suddenly forgot the importance of environmentalism. It took the green movement awhile to adjust to this revelation.
In the parliamentary elections held in Hungary, in May, 1994, the issue of political representation confronted the green movement once again. Zöld Alternativa (Green Alternative) was founded during the summer of 1993. This alliance, backed by a few members of the movement, fought for seats in the Hungarian Parliament in cooperation with other parties, but most of the movement did not join this political party. It soon became clear that the environmental movement could not be successful in a governmental position; it had to be in opposition. Activists realized that they didn't have to fight against a central political power any longer, but against profit-oriented (and very often Western) capitalist groups and concerns.
Groups embarked on a mission of institutionalization. They began to arrange their legal status and were registered by the state. Previously, work had been done at state-owned companies and on a fully volunteer basis. Now they sought financial support and with this money were able to cover costs like copying and telephones. While securing operational costs, some of the groups moved toward a more professional, research-oriented focus. Others continued their environmental education projects or tried to apply the tools typical of pressure groups, first on local and later on national authorities and governments.
Soon after the political changes the movement tried to find ways to cooperate internally. After all, three years had past before the Hungarian green movement was able to cope with the aversion caused by its more recent "second" past, and now it was ready for broader cooperation. This change is due to the importance of environmental issues. Several action groups were formed during this process and organizations tried to join forces to become more effective. Examples include the air, energy and waste action groups, the group protesting the construction of the south freeway, and a group that participated in the development of the draft environmental law.
Groups realized that instead of competing with each other, they should cooperate, and that the best way to cooperate was not by creating a central body but by forming networks. Networking continues to exist in several forms, and newsletters and information booklets are distributed on mailing lists. Since 1994, the Hungarian environmental movement has had its own "Green Spider" computer network. A new tradition, the Annual Meeting of Environmental and Nature Conservation Organizations, has grown to be the biggest green gathering and top-level decisionmaking forum in the movement.
Unfortunately, such cooperation has not yet developed between the Hungarian Ministry of Environment and Regional Planning and the green movement, a shortcoming noticed by both sides. At the green movement's annual meetings, activists are being delegated to several committees and bodies because the governmental sector needs civil control and cooperation at all levels. In late 1996, the pressure drove NGOs to begin meeting monthly to discuss burning issues and common problems.
The new market economy and democratic political system have had a profound effect on Hungary's green movement. Many organizations have become more professional, either in their environmental work, fund raising or public relations. Luckily despite the daily struggle for survival, the overwhelming pressure of environmental problems, and the need to professionalize in order to address these problems more effectively and on a full-time basis, most NGOs still retain their dedication to volunteerism and civil values. For this is the only basis on which a real, operational and colorful green movement can exist in Hungary.
1. The present Hungarian Green Party is an extremist right-wing party. The Hungarian green movement drew up a statement signed by 190 groups in which it has disassociated itself from the Green Party.