This chapter examines how environmental politics is being shaped by the transition process currently underway across the region. Because of the close connection between political transformation and economic restructuring, this chapter also looks at the impact of economic reform on environmental governance in the region. Since 1989, the region has undergone a complex process of transition, involving both democratisation and marketisation. There has been a tendency by academic writers, western multilateral agencies and advisers to governments to assume that this 'transition', while complex, involves a relatively unproblematic implementation of a number of economic and political reforms (see Baker (1996) for further details). This in turn would allow progress towards a set of pre-defined end-points. However, it has become clear that 'transition', far from being a linear process, is both evolutionary and path dependent (Smith and Pickles, 1998, pp.15-16). It is evolutionary in that it is based upon institutionalised forms of learning and is path dependent in that it involves complex reworking of old social relations in the light of the attempt to construct a form of capitalism on and with the ruins of the old communist system.
Studies looking at the environmental dimensions of transition typically explore the environmental legacy of communist rule, the nature of post-communist environmental problems, the environmental management strategies evolving at the state and international levels to deal with these problems and the role played by the environmental movement in the collapse of the old regimes and, subsequently, in environmental management in post-communist states. However, understanding transition in terms of a dynamic unfolding between evolutionary and path-dependent change, what we will call the 'transition dynamic', enables us to cast new light upon the impact of transition on these environmental issues and, more generally, upon the changing nature of environmental governance. It allows us to view environmental governance within the context of the complex interface that is evolving between the legacies of the old regime and the new systems of environmental management that are being introduced across the region. It helps explain the seemingly contradictory tendencies that research to date on the environmental dimensions of transition is uncovering. On the one