Environmentalism in Today's Eastern Europe

Author:Mate Julesz
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10 The Open Law Journal, 2013, 5, 10-14
1874-950X/13 2013 Bentham Open
Open Access
Environmentalism in Today’s Eastern Europe
Mate Julesz*
Department of Public H ealth, University of Szeged, Hungary
Abstract: Civic control in environmental matters is an existential need of a well-functioning democracy. Gr een parties of-
ten emerge from civil society movements, though they lose their c ivic nature on entering parliament. Axiologi cally, objec-
tive environmental va lues should be protected by p olitical parties, whilst both ob jective and subjective environmental val-
ues are represented b y civil society organizations. The evolution of g reen movements in Western Europe and Northern
America differs considerab ly from that of environmentalism in European communist and post-communist countries.
Keywords: Environmental law, environm ental sociology, environmental civil activi ty, p artaking democra cy, social changes,
green parties.
The Preamble of the Univ ersal Declaration of Human
Rights (UNO, 1948 ) states that it is essenti al, if man is not to
be co mpelled to have recours e, as a last resort, to rebellion
against tyran ny and oppressio n, that human rights should be
protected by the rule of law. Ar ticle 20 of the De claration
specifies that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful
assembly and associa tion.
From the aspect of maintenance of the rule of l aw, state
should be under civic con trol. Civic control implies th e so-
cial activity of both groups of people and also individuals. In
Eastern European countries, civic control is con trolled by the
state, the state recognizing and su bsidizing only those c ivic
organizations which are registered and control led by state
organs. In Central and West ern European countries, the
situation is somewhat simil ar, though in practice individuals
may have their voices heard.
In many Eastern European countries, the righ t to freedom
of peaceful assoc iation is mostly well-function ing. Neverthe-
less, individu als do not have the rights to exert civic control
over the state with efficacy comparable to that of associa -
tions. The ev er-present problem is whe ther an individual
who has no direc t interest in a par ticular case should or
should not be allowed to defend other people’s interests.
In mo st Europ ean countries, only associations have such
rights. There are exceptions of cours e. According to Para-
graph (3) of Article 52 of the Constitution of Portugal, for
example, every one, either personal ly or through associations
that purpo rt to defend the interes ts at stake, enjoys the right
to actio popularis in the cases and u nder the conditions pro-
vided by law, i.e . the right to promote the prev ention, the
suppression and the prosecution of of fences agains t public
health, the environ ment, the quality of life and the cultural
heritage, and also the right to cla im corresponding damages
for the aggrieved par ty.
*Address corresponden ce to this author a t the Department of Public Health,
University of Szeged, Dom ter 10. H-6720 Szeged, Hu ngary; Tel: 36-62-
545119; Fax: 36-62-545120; E-mail: mate.jule sz@citromail.hu
Civic control m ight possibly be doomed to vanish in
Eastern European countr ies, which are appreciably poo rer
than their Wes tern European counterparts and hence less
sensitive in r ule of law matters. Su ch phenomena as NIMB Y
(Not In My Back Yard), etc. do not play important roles in
the field of civic control in this region. NIM BY is rooted in
the fabric o f the political life in Western European countries .
In Poland, the C zech Republic, the Slovak Republic and
Hungary, NIMBY is co nsidered so lely by theoreticians. In
these Visegrad countries (V-4), civic contro l is slowly but
saliently losing its w eight in p olitics. The division of politi-
cal power appeared in the philosophy of Aristotle, Cicero,
John Locke, Montesquieu, etc. The Montesquieu mode of
division of political power ([1] legislative, [2] executive and
[3] judiciary powers) is currently becoming weaker, an d
these three political powers are united by the winn er of par-
liamentary elections.
A leg islature independent of executive power was a
dream that never materialized in the V-4 countries. Around
the end of the 198 0s, attempts were made to bring about a
Montesquieu div ision of political power, though the last two
decades have demonstrated that legislature and executiv e
power can function only in the hands of the g overning ma-
jority. Th e electoral winners appointed new public adminis-
trators in or der to ease the exe cution of the acts of parlia-
During the communist era, judiciary power was likewise
in the hands of po litics, under full govern mental control.
Around 19 90, however, the situa tion changed. In those East-
ern European coun tries where the p arliamentary elections led
to a larg e majority, the judiciary sys tem was re-organized so
as to serve the interests of the new government. On e exam-
ple is the case of Hungary. Under such circumstances , the
division of political power has undergone a change of face.
Since the legislative , executive and judiciary powers are in
the sam e hands, the role of civic control over the state is to
be stressed . As sociations and civic individuals should coun-

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