a review
    of European
Image of lflogo.jpg
return to homepage

return to back issues

From Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, No. 61, 1998.

Gerhard Jordan

The Greens in Eastern Europe

Most of the Green parties of Eastern and Central Europe emerged in the wake of the Communist collapse of 1989 and 1990. Initial political successes were followed by a deep crisis after 1992 from which these parties are now beginning to emerge.

As in the West, the Green parties of Eastern and Central Europe emerged out of movements in opposition to official policy. The activists in these movements were recruited from both the long-standing nature protection organisations and from the scientific intelligentsia. In some countries these Green movements played a role in the turbulent changes of 1989 (for instance, Eco-Glasnost in Bulgaria, the movement against the Nagymaros Dam in Hungary) or were participants in the independence movements (the Baltic states). Green parties entered the parliaments of a number of Eastern and Central European countries in 1990. Unlike in the West,  some of these Green parties found themselves overnight in government coalitions (in the Baltic states, in Slovenia and later in Georgia) and played an active role in the formulation of environmental laws.
Loss of influence and new problems
Throughout Eastern Europe, with few exceptions (Georgia), the Green parties suffered a severe decline and loss of influence and electoral support around 1992. The reasons for this decline were:
* The systemic transition from a form of state socialism to Western-style capitalism gave a new emphasis to economic questions, not an area of strength for the Green parties, and the environment receded as an area of public concern.
* The transition also brought the social question to the forefront of public awareness. Increasingly large layers of the population were thrown into poverty while a small social minority - often involving criminal elements - enriched themselves. In the bitter struggles of daily life, environmental protection was a luxury. The "post-materialist culture" was lacking and it was mainly the post-Communist and Socialist parties that benefited from the social misery and  disillusionment.
* In the non-Russian republics of the former Soviet Union, Green parties and  movements had played an important role in the struggle for independence but, once this independence had been achieved, the domestic political situation changed significantly - nationalism was now directed against local minorities and the Greens who didn't want to be part of this found themselves on the margins of political life.
* Other parties now began to take up the environmental issue, even if only rhetorically and in an inconsistent manner. Likewise, some prominent Green politicians pursued their career interests in other parties. For instance, Filip Dimitrov,  UDK government leader in Bulgaria from October 1991 to October 1992, had been vice-president of the Bulgarian Green Party in 1989.
* The competition from Western-style Christian Democratic, Liberal and Social Democratic parties, which had material support from the West, hit the Greens, who had little or no material support,  very hard. High election hurdles often forced the Green parties into electoral coalitions which cost them dearly in terms of image and membership.
* Finally, having overcome the problems associated with infiltration by apparatchiks of the old system in the founding phase and narrowed the distance from the environmental movements, the parties themselves suffered from a variety of splits and internal conflicts. In both Hungary and Slovenia, members of the Green parties formed in 1989 later established new Green Alternative parties.

Different from West European Greens
The Green parties of Eastern and Central Europe differ in a number of significant ways from their sister parties in Western Europe. These differences have their roots in the different social and political conditions in which these parties originated.
* There are few or no women among the leaders or parliamentary representatives of the East European Green parties and gender parity in the drawing up of electoral slates is practically unknown.
* Scientific experts and occasionally bureaucrats from the various environmental ministries, on the other hand, have a large presence in these bodies. University professors in areas such as biology, town planning, agriculture, etc. often play leading roles. In Western Europe, the number of scientific experts in party politics is relatively small.
* In some of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, Green parties participated in government in 1990. This didn't happen in Western Europe until 1995 in Finland and then later in Italy and France. However, West European Green parties, with a strong influence from the left, have had a much more positive view of state intervention that is the case with the East European parties that developed in a tradition of hostility to the Communist state system. Similarly, the Eastern parties, certainly in the early years of their existence, saw themselves as centre rather than left parties.
* It is also the case in Eastern Europe that some Green parties are financially supported by firms and business people that deal with environmental technology in the broadest sense or that would benefit from a more ecological orientation on the part of government (for instance, in Ukraine). In view of the lack of resources, this is an interesting and indeed quite legitimate route to follow. The ecological party Kedr, in Russia, however, is a rather curious example of this policy. This party won 1 per cent of the vote in the December 1995 elections in which it was supported by the state-owned gas corporation, Gazprom.

Their role inside the European Greens
It is not only the European Union but also the European Green Federation that has to concern itself with the issue of integration and eastward expansion. At the Fifth Congress of the Euro-Greens in Paris in April 1989 Greens from the Baltic States and from Poland made their first appearance. The Estonian Greens were the first as a group to enter the European Greens in December 1989. The East German Greens followed in March 1990 and then later merged with the West German Greens in January 1991. The Bulgarian and Georgian Greens joined in March 1991, the Slovenians in June 1992 (they asked to have their membership "frozen" in 1993 because of internal conflicts). The Ukrainians, the St Petersburg Greens and the Hungarian Green Alternative  joined in January 1994, the Slovaks in June 1995 and finally the Czechs in May 1997.
A representative of the Eastern Greens has been part of the leadership Committee of the European Greens since 1992. From 1992 to 1994 this was Surab Schwanija, from 1994 to 1997, Natalia Kirvalidse, both from Georgia, and since 1997 it has been Gy"rgy Droppa from Hungary. Three of the regular meetings of the European Greens have taken place in Eastern Europe: 1990 in Budapest, 1991 in Sofia and 1995 again in Budapest.
On the basis of an initiative by the Dutch Groen Links party, a Green East-West Dialogue was established in 1991 to discuss controversial substantial issues. At its first meeting in Piest'any in Slovakia in November 1991 there was a discussion on nationalism and nationality. Further meetings took place in Piest'any (May 1992), in Kiev (Dec 1992), in Gliwice, Poland (July 1994), in Bratislava (May 1995), in Sofia (Oct 1995), in Kiev (April 1996), in Gliwice (May 1996), in Noordwijkerhout, the Netherlands (Jan 1997), in Sofia (Nov 1997) and in Warsaw (March 1998).  There also have been a number of sub-meetings in the Caucasus and in the Black Sea region and elsewhere.
 The themes discussed at these East-West meetings have included atomic energy, security policy, environmental policies, EU expansion eastwards, the problems of the Balkans and discrimination against the Roma. On some issues, for instance, assessment of the EU, a common view has emerged. Among the Green parties of the one-time EFTA countries, traditionally quite hostile to the EU, the entry of these countries into the Union has led to a more realistic policy while the EU-euphoria of the East European Greens has given way to a more critical wait-and-see attitude which is still positive about EU entry but is more aware of the dangers and problems.
The European Greens are now developing common polices on issues such as eastward expansion and the single currency, something unthinkable only a few years ago.

Green parties in the Baltic States
In the Baltic states the Green parties had already established themselves by 1988/89 and played, first as movements then as parties, a significant role in the struggle of these countries to free themselves from Soviet domination. Resistance to foreign domination was easily combined with opposition to particular ecological threats: the demolition of phosphate and oil schale installations in north-eastern Estonia, leaking oil pipelines, the nuclear power station, Ignalina, in Lithuania, chemical factories and refineries, the pollution of rivers and inland waterways by emissions and power stations, neglect or destruction of historical areas (for instance, the construction of the underground in the heart of old Riga),  the nuclear submarine ports, corroding kerosene tanks on military airfields, etc.  Protest was directed against  "ecological destruction carried out by the Russian imperialist occupying power" and against the Red Army. New industrial projects were also linked to the influx of Russian-speaking workers which threatened the ethnic balance of the Baltic states.
The attainment of independence in the summer of 1991 altered the situation. The Soviets were no longer the owners of the industrial plants and their polluted environs but the Baltic states themselves. And these industrial plants were essential for export. The new rich in the newly independent states preferred to build their villas in the protected green-filed sites on the coast and to drive their expensive cars through the pedestrian centres of the old inner cities. The Greens are no longer either in the governments or the parliaments of the three Baltic States.
Since 1989 there have been regular contact meetings among the Green parties of the Baltic and North Sea area. Co-operation among the Green parties of this region is seen as a more meaningful goal than links with the parties of a centralised European Union.

The Estonian Green Movement grew in 1988 out of the protests against the closure of phosphate mining in the north of the country. In August 1989 the Green Party was established as a breakaway from the movement which it saw as not sufficiently active. In the elections to the Estonian supreme soviet in March 1990, the Green Party won 8 seats. Its leader, Toomas Frey, a biology professor at the University of Tartu, became the country's first environment minister.
The Movement and the Party re-united on 7 December 1991 to form the Estonian Greens. In the election of 20 September 1992, the Greens failed to get the necessary 5 per cent to enter parliament as a group, winning only 2.6 per cent, but had one candidate directly elected in Tartu. In the election of March 1995, the party's share of the vote went down to 0.8 per cent and no candidates entered parliament. In local elections, the Estonian Greens won one council seat in Tallinn.
The party has 260 members. It calls for a sustainable development of the Baltic region and is engaged in consumer campaigns as well as in the debate about  EU entry.  They see EU entry as a possible threat to the environment of the Baltic area but, for security reasons, see no other alternative. They oppose membership in NATO. They work closely with other environmental groups, especially Friends of the Earth.

The Environmental Protection Association VAK was established in February 1987 and fought to protect the Daugava river. The Green Party was formed on 13 January 1990. In the elections to the Supreme Soviet (later renamed the Supreme Council) in March 1990 the Greens were part of the Latvian Popular Front which won the election and had 7 seats. In the elections of 6 June 1993 a joint Green slate of the Green Party and VAK won only 1.2 per cent, failing to reach the required 4 per cent. The Greens also failed to have any candidates elected in the 1995 election.

In Lithuania the Green Movement was founded in October 1988, the Green Party in July 1989. Its main political campaign centred on the nuclear power plant Ignalina.  The party and the movement were part of the pro-independence SajŁdis (formed in June 1988) which won the majority of seats  (80 per cent) in the two elections of February/March 1990. 9 Greens entered parliament, 4 from the party and 5 from the movement.  Sigmas Vaisvila, deputy prime minister between January 1991 and the spring of 1992, was a member of the Green Party. However, the SajŁdis suffered massive losses in the elections of 25 October/15 November 1992 (17 per cent of seats) and the Greens were no longer represented in parliament. There were no Green candidates in the elections of October/November 1996. The Green Party was also affected by internal conflicts and splits.

The Ecoglasnost initiative, formed on 11 April 1985, emerged out of the Committee for the Ecological Protection of Ruse, a small border town on the Danube which was threatened by pollution from a Romanian chemical plant on the other side of the river. Ecoglasnost came to public attention in the autumn of 1989 when it organised public demonstrations and petitions on the occasion of the meeting of the CSCE Ecoforum in Sofia. The activities of Ecoglasnost contributed to the difficulties of the regime and the overthrow of  Todor Zhivkov.
Members of Ecoglasnost formed the Green Party on 28 December 1989. Both groups campaigned in the first free election of 10 June 1990 as part of the oppositional Union of Democratic Forces . The Green Party won 13 seats and Ecoglasnost 16.  Some  politically active members of Ecoglasnost later became fully part of the UDF while others went to the Bulgarian Socialist Party. The founder of the Green Party, Alexander Karakatschanov, was elected as mayor of Sofia in October 1990, a post which he held for one year.
In both elections that followed, the Greens failed to get past the 4 per cent hurdle. In the election of October 1991, having separated from the UDF majority, they  campaigned together with the Democratic Clubs and the Democratic Party as "UDF Liberals" and won 2.8 per cent of the vote. In the election of 18 December 1994, campaigning as Democratic Alternative for the Republic, they narrowly missed the necessary 4 per cent, winning 3.8 per cent.
For the 1997 election of 19 April, together with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), led by the Bulgarian Turk, Ahmet Dogan, and other smaller partied, they formed a coalition under the name Alliance for National Salvation. The Alliance won 7.6 per cent of the vote, 19 seats in the 240-seat National Assembly. Most of the seats went to the MRF; two seats went to the Greens.  The Green MPs are the party founder, Karakatschanov (who is also the spokesperson for the Alliance) and Valentin Simov. They act as a constructive opposition and their choice of the MRF as a coalition partner is an expression of their political goal of integrating minorities and ethnic groups.
The Bulgarian Greens have around 2,000 members, among them many intellectuals. In local elections in October 1995 they won 40 seats in various councils. Among their goals are the closure of the nuclear power station at Kosloduj and the prevention of another such plant at Belene, both on the Danube. They are in favour of Bulgaria's entry into the EU and NATO.

In Georgia, as in other countries, it was from an existing Green Movement that the Green Party was formed in 1989. In the elections of 11 October 1992, the Green Party won 7.3 per cent of the vote and 11 (later 12) seats in parliament. The party had three ministers in the Schevardnadze  government. Greens were among the founders of the Civic Union in 1993, a political organisation that supported Schevardnadze. In the elections of 5 November 1995 the Civic Union slate, which included the Greens, won 23.7 per cent of the vote and 107 out of 235 seats in parliament. There are four Greens and a number of ex-Greens among the Civic Union group of parliamentarians. Nino Schkhobadse of the Greens is environment minister and another Green, Surab Schvanija, also General Secretary of the Civic Union, was elected leader of parliament.
The environment minister holds regular weekly meetings with environmental organisations and has organised regular contact with representatives of the Abkhasi. The Greens are active in the battle against the Armenian nuclear power plant in Erevan, in the campaign to ban wood export, in resisting the plan by Turkey to construct a number of large hydroelectric dams on the river Choroch that flows into the Black Sea at Batumi.
The Georgian Greens, with 2,000 members, were quite nationalist oriented when they were first established. They were vigorous  in demanding independence from the USSR. However, their experiences with the ultra-nationalist president, Sviad Gamsachurdia, who suppressed the opposition (including the Greens) and who was overthrown in the spring of 1992, may have weakened their nationalist fervour. They are now engaging in dialogue with neighbouring countries and with minorities in Georgia itself. They want to bring an end to all violence in the Caucasus. As far as becoming part of the European Union is concerned, they favour a Europe of the regions rather than an expansion of the existing EU.

The first Green Party in Eastern Europe was formed in Poland. The Polska Partia Zielonych was established in Krak˘w on 10 December 1988. One of its founders was Zygmunt Fura, member of the Polish Ecological Club (PEK) established in 1980. There were splits in the party soon after it was founded and many environmental organisations kept their distance from the party. Seven different Green groups campaigned in the elections of 27 October 1991, winning altogether 2 per cent of the vote.  
The strongest party in this election was the Democratic Union, which won 12.3 per cent of the vote. Many of the old human rights activists of the 1970s and 1980s were members of Democratic Union, which won 10.6 per cent of the vote in the next election in September 1993 (74 seats out of 460 in the Sejm). This party later became the Freedom Union (UW), within which there is a kind of Green lobby which calls itself the Ecological Forum (Unia Wolnoo'i-Forum Ekologiczna). The Forum has a few hundred members and has links with the European Greens.  Between 1993 and 1997, 6 UW members of parliament were members of the Forum. Following the election of 21 September 1997, in which the UW won 14 per cent of the vote and 65 seats, there are 3 Forum members in the Sejm.
Since the 1997 election, a member of the Ecological Forum has been deputy environment minister. He is Radoslaw Gawlik who, in the 1980s, was an activist in the independent peace group Freedom and Peace (Wolnoo'i i Pok˘j). He was elected to parliament and became a member of the parliamentary environment committee. He is seen by most environmental organisations - from the PEK to the more anarchist oriented cycling groups - as the person to talk to in government. Jointly with other NGOs, the Ecological Forum organised a campaign "Ecology in the Constitution" and collected 80,000 signatures in a petition in support of their demands. The new constitution was approved in a referendum in May 1997 and contains clauses that speak of  protection of the environment based on the principle of sustainable development, environmental protection as a duty of public bodies, the right to information about the condition of the environment and its protection and support from official public bodies  for citizens' initiatives to protect and improve the environment. The Ecological Forum supports Poland's entry into NATO and the European Union. This is defended as the only secure option in view of developments in Russia.
With the early collapse of Poland's various Green parties, there is some discussion as to whether the Ecological Forum should establish a party. This, however, is not very likely because it would mean a loss of access to the facilities currently provided by the Freedom Union. It would also confront them with the problem of the 5 per cent electoral hurdle. In addition, Polish NGOs see themselves as lobbies that can address any party. They see no need, therefore, to establish their own party.

Although there were no campaign movements in Romania under the Ceausescu, two Green groups were established in January 1990 which were then elected to parliament in the elections of 20 May 1990. These were the Ecological Movement (MER) which won 2.6 per cent of the vote and 12 seats, and the Ecological Party (PER) which won 1.7 per cent of the vote and 9 seats in the Romanian parliament.  Both groups lost their seats in the elections of 27 September 1992. In the elections of 3 November 1996, the Green candidates stood as part of the oppositional Democratic Convention of Romania (DCR: formed in November 1991), an alliance of 17 different parties and groups which won 30 per cent of the vote and 122 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (328 elected members plus 15 representatives of minority organisations). The Greens in the  DCR are organised in the Ecological Federation (FER) and have one seat. The  Ecological Movement (MER) claims to have a number of members elected in regional and local councils.

The Slovakian Union of Nature and Landscape Protectors (SZOPK) was founded at the beginning of the 1970s. It was an official organisation but became increasingly critical of the government. In the events of 1989 SZOPK activists were involved in the popular movement against the Communist regime. In December 1989 they established the Green Party of Slovakia (Strana Zelenìch na Slovensku) which held its first congress in Bansk  Bystrica on 27 January 1990. In the Czechoslovak elections of 8/9 June 1990, they failed to get the necessary 5 per cent to enter the Federal Assembly (their vote was 3 per cent) but they won 6 seats in the Slovak National Council (total of 150 seats) where the electoral hurdle was set at 3 per cent.  The party split at its congress in the summer of 1991 over the issue of Slovak independence. The Green Party lost their seats in the Slovak National Council in the election of 5/6 June 1992, winning only 2.14 per cent of the vote. An alternative Green List which favoured the maintenance of the Czechoslovak federal system won just over 1 per cent. This debate ended with the independence of Slovakia on 1 January 1993.
In the elections of 30 September/1 October 1994, the Greens made a comeback, this time in an electoral alliance under the name of Common Choice which also included the Party of the Democratic Left, the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia and the Farmers' Movement. The Common Choice alliance won 10 per cent of the vote and 18 seats (out of 150). Of these seats, 14 went to the reform-Communist Party of the Democratic Left, 2 went to the Greens and one each to the Social Democrats and the Farmers' Movement. The Green MPs are Jozef Pokornì and Anton Juris. They have spoken out in parliament against the construction of the Mochovc nuclear power plant, have argued in favour of an animal protection law and an environmentally cautious approach to the Gab'ikovo hydroelectric station. They have also succeeded in winning a  smoking ban in all public buildings.
The Slovak Greens oppose the Winter Olympics 2006 in Poprad (the Tatra mountains) and they are resisting the large-scale cultivation of forest land in eastern Slovakia. Although they were initially sceptical about Slovak entry into NATO, the increasingly pro-Russian stance of the prime minister, Vladimir MeŠiar,  has created more pro-NATO sentiment in the party.  The leader of the Greens since March 1997 is the one-time MP, Zdena Tothova.
The Slovak Greens have around 2,000 members and are relatively strong in the localities. They won over 450 seats in local elections in 1990; in 1994 they had 200 seats. In some small towns there are Green mayors, for instance in the industrial town of Dubnica nad V hom (pop. 25,000).  They are also strong in the spa town of Piest'any.
For the elections of 25/26 September 1998, the Greens entered another electoral alliance, this time the Slovak Democratic Coalition, which also included the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, the Democratic Union and the Democratic Party...

There was an environmental movement in Slovenia in the 1980s. There were big demonstrations in 1986 at the time of the nuclear accident in Chernobyl in Ukraine. The Greens (Zeleni Slovenije - ZS) were formed in July 1989 and too part in the elections of 8 April 1990 in which they won 8.8 per cent of the vote and 8 seats in the assembly of the Slovenian Republic (still part of the Yugoslav Federation). In this election they were part of the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS), a broad anti-Communist coalition containing six separate parties (in addition to the Greens, the Christian Democrats, Farmers' Alliance, Democratic Alliance, Social Democratic Alliance and the Slovene Craftsmen's Party). DEMOS won the election and formed the government in which  the Greens led the ministries for the environment, energy, health and science. The DEMOS government promised, among other things, to close the nuclear power plant at Krsko by 1995, a promise they later retreated from.
In the elections to the new 90-seat National Assembly on 6 December 1992, the Greens won 3.7 per cent of the vote and 5 seats in the Assembly. The party was soon divided, however, as many of the members disagreed with the centre-left course of the parliamentary group. The 5 members of the Assembly renamed themselves as the Ecological Social Party and in early 1994 some of them joined other parties. One of these was Leo Seserko, who first joined the Liberal Democratic Party (23 per cent of the vote in 1992 and the biggest party in the Assembly), but later left them because of their inadequate support on environmental issues. With other environmental activists from Ljubljana and Maribor, he founded the Green Alternative (Zelena Alternativa - ZA) on 21 December 1995. The new party had 250 members. In the elections of 10 November 1996 the ZA won 0.52 per cent of the vote. The more conservative oriented Greens (ZS) won 1.76 per cent.
One of the main campaigns of the Green Alternative is for the closure of the nuclear power plat ant Krsko and for a referendum on the nuclear power issue. In general, they argue for ecological and social restrictions on the market economy and for greater social justice. They campaign against cuts in public health care and public transport. They argue for a reform of agriculture, the protection of drinking water and measures to encourage greater use of bicycles.  On the issue of NATO entry they are either sceptical or neutral. They favour Slovenia's entry into the European Union but on the condition that heavy lorry transit through Slovenia would be restricted. The see the other left parties in Slovenia as potential partners.

Czech Republic
The Czech Green Party was formed in February 1990, made up of independent parties from Bohemia and Moravia and linked with the Greens of Slovakia.  In the Czechoslovak elections of June 1990 they failed to reach the 5 per cent that was necessary for both the Federal Assembly and the Czech National Council (their vote was 4.1 per cent). In the local elections in the autumn of 1990, several hundred Green councillors were elected in Bohemia and Moravia.  
In the elections of 1992 the Greens entered an electoral alliance with Socialists and the Agrarian Party to form the Liberal Social Union (LSU). In the Czech National Council the LSU won 7 per cent of the vote and 16 seats (out of 200); 3 seats went to the Green Party. One of the three later joined the Czech Social Democrats (CSSD). The Greens also won seats in the Federal parliament, but this was dissolved within half a year following the break-up of the Czechoslovak federation.
The LSU coalition led to a great deal of dissatisfaction among the membership of the Green Party and there was a loss of members - the Greens were barely visible inside the coalition. They had planned to stand independently in the elections of May/June 1996, but for technical reasons the Green list of candidates was not accepted in northern Moravia and the Greens then decided not to stand elsewhere.
At local level, the Greens have around 250 councillors, one of them in Prague. There are three Green deputy mayors, in éstˇ nad Labem, Karlovy Vary and Olomouc. Their main strength is in northern and western Bohemia and in northern Moravia. The party has around 1,500 members,
The Greens stood as an independent party in the 19/20 June elections. With 1.2 per cent, they failed to achieve the necessary 5 per cent. Their best results were in western Bohemia (1.45 per cent) and Karlovy Vary (1.67 per cent). The Greens are part of local government in Karlovy Vary and it interesting to note that in May 1998, just shortly before the elections, the first public meeting of gays and lesbians took place in this town with the support of the local council.
The main themes of the Greens in the elections were transport, energy, social policy, health and education. In their election programme of 1998 (main motto: The citizen has the right to be informed, to be listened to and to influence decisions), they called for an immediate halt to the construction of the Temelin nuclear power station. There are elements in the Czech government that now support this demand.
They also call for the introduction of an eco-tax, promotion and modernisation of rail transport, a review of the motorway and road building programme, reform of agricultural methods, tax incentives for recycling, support for small and medium sized businesses, a stronger role for towns and local communities, a housing fund for the socially under-privileged, social security for the disabled and pensioners, harsh penalties for organised crime and measures against economic criminals.
There are also conservative aspects of the programme: there are no concrete demands with regard to the role and position of women - the programme speaks merely of improvements in education with a view to "reducing the number of divorces, abortions and other undesirable phenomena". Similarly, demands for tightening up the conditions for drawing unemployment insurance would be hard to find in Green programmes in western Europe.
On the question of foreign policy, the Green election programme restricts itself to three general demands:  an equal position for the Czech Republic in Europe and the world, preparation for Czech entry into the EU and peaceful solution of international conflicts. Although the Greens have concerns about the effects of EU entry on transport and agriculture, they defend Czech membership of the EU. The question of NATO is left open. While there is some support for the critical position of the European Greens which opposes NATO eastward expansion, there are also vague fears expressed about a "new 1968". There are also some Greens who defend Czech neutrality while others would be willing to accept NATO as long as there were no weapons of mass destruction stationed in the Czech Republic.

The Green Party of Ukraine was founded in the spring of 1990 and officially registered on 24 May 1991. It was formed by activists from the environmental movement Green World (Zeleny Svit). As a protest against the Ukrainian electoral system, which discriminates against small parties, the Green Party did not stand candidates in the March/April 1994 election. In the meantime, the electoral system has been changed and now half of the 450 members of the Ukrainian parliament are elected on the basis of party lists and proportional representation.
The Greens began to reorganise themselves in 1993 and established a large number of local organisations. Their programme emphasises the importance of sustainability and responsibility. Among their goals are: the closure of Chernobyl, an exit from nuclear energy and disarmament. In October 1993 the Green group in the Kiev city council (3 councillors) succeeded in having the city declared a nuclear-free zone. The Greens oppose NATO expansion eastward, call for Ukrainian neutrality and are opposed to a CIS superpower under Russian dominance.

The main issue for Hungarian environmentalists in the 1980s, organised in the Danube Circle, as well as for political opposition groups, was opposition to the Slovak-Hungarian project, partly financed by Austria,  to build the GabŠikovo-Nagymaros dam on the Danube. In 1989, as a result of the popular opposition, the Hungarian government withdrew from the project.
The Hungarian Green Party (Magyarorsz gi Z"ld P rt - MZP) was founded on 18/19 November 1989 in Budapest. In the election of 25 March 1990, the party won only 0.36 per cent of the vote and no seat in parliament. Tensions increased in the party following this electoral disaster and an alternative-feminist group was expelled. The MZP was weakened by this exclusion and in 1993 a more right-wing current pushed the remaining moderates out of the party but kept the official party name.
Since then the Hungarian Green Party has defended such policies as support for the GabŠikovo-Nagymaros dam (because "opponents are influenced by the international nuclear mafia"), the repression of homosexuals and prostitutes, forcing aids victims to wear a yellow patch, aids tests for the whole population and "protection of the Hungarian race". Democrats are "betraying the fatherland". Green Party publications inform the public that "Zionists are making money by means of economic deceit; it is in the nature of Jews to have a good understanding of money".
Members expelled from the MZP, with activists from environment groups such as the Danube Circle, formed a Green Alternative (Z"ld Alternativa - ZA) on 15 June 1993.  In the election of  8 May 1994, the ZA succeeded is entering a candidate in only one electoral district, in N˘gr d in northern Hungary. [In the Hungarian electoral system, a party can present a candidate only  by collecting 750 recommending signatures in the individual district.]  In the N˘gr d district, it polled 0.7 per cent (0.02 per cent of the national vote). The right-wing MZP stood candidates in 7 districts, polling 0.16 per cent of the national vote. A last-minute agreement with the Agrarian Alliance did not bring success either. The Agrarian  lists, which included 2 Green candidates, won only 2 per cent of the vote, well under the necessary 5 per cent. Needless to say, the mood among Hungary's Greens after these electoral failures was not a good one.
There were some local successes in the local elections of December 1994 - 12 Green councillors were elected in four districts.
The Green Alternative has a very small membership base, around 200. Their work in the media, however, is very effective. Their political programme calls for social security, an ecologically sustainable economic order, eco-tax and the protection of minorities (Roma). In the referendum of 1997 they campaigned against entry into NATO but they are in favour of Hungarian membership in the EU.
The GabŠikovo hydroelectric plant is one of the party's main themes. The International Court in Den Haag, on 25 September 1997, urged Hungary and Slovakia to seek an ecologically defensible solution to this problem. The Greens are calling for an increase in the water flow through the old Danube river bed on the Hungarian-Slovakian border. The redirection of the river by the Slovaks led to a 80 per cent reduction of water after 1994.
When the social-liberal government began again to discuss plans for the second stage of the Nagymaros project, there were major demonstrations and protests in Hungary.  The environmentalists are hopeful that the new government of Viktor Orban (the environment minister is a member of the right-wing Smallholder Party) will pay more attention to the interests of the Danube Circle.
For the parliamentary elections of 10/24 May 1998, the Green Alternative formed an electoral alliance with the Party of the Republic (2.5 per cent in the 1994 elections), five other small parties and a number of NGOs from the area of social rights and animal protection. The new alliance was called the Common Union for Hungary (Egy-tt Magyarorsz g‚rt Uni˘ - EMU). In the first ballot this alliance list won 0.2 per cent of the national vote. However, in the 176 electoral constituencies, there were only four candidates from the Green Alternative.

The crisis which began around 1992 in Eastern Europe's Green parties was linked to the effects of the transition process in these countries, in particular, the fact that ecological issues declined in importance relative to other major social and economic problems. Another problem has been the high electoral hurdles in most of these countries, generally around 5 per cent. Competing parties are also wealthier and better organised.
In the past few years, these parties and movements have gradually been establishing an identity. Programmatic discussions, including discussions and the development of common platforms with the Green movements and parties in Western Europe, have also intensified. They are more cautious about electoral participation and have also begun to consider alliances with left-leaning parties. The creation of a local base and the development of party structures is a central concern. In the coming years there is every reason to believe that the Green parties of Central and Eastern Europe will become a stable part of the political spectrum of these countries.

This article was first published in Ost-West Gegeninformationen, No. 2/98, July 1998. The translation is by Gus Fagan.