The former German Democratic Republic (GDR), now referred to as the 'new Länder' of reunified Germany, occupies an anomalous position within Europe (Figure 7.1). After the Second World War, the division of Germany split the country between the 'communist east' and 'capitalist west'. The GDR was a key player in the development of the socialist economies of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) for forty years, while West Germany was a founder member of the European Economic Community (now the European Union or EU). Since German reunification in 1990, however, the former GDR has become a member of the EU. Thus, while the environmental problems facing the former GDR have many similarities with those of other CEE states, the policies to solve them are now formulated both by the federal government of Germany and the EU. The former GDR must therefore be seen as a 'special case' in the context of this edited collection.
In order to analyse environmental problems and policies in Germany's new Länder, this chapter is structured in three parts. First, it is important to outline the environmental legacy of the GDR as a basis for a comparison between the environmental situation in the GDR and former West Germany on the eve of reunification. Second, the policy framework within which environmental problems in the new Länder are being tackled will be examined. Third, progress in solving environmental problems in the former GDR will be assessed.
Environmental standards in the GDR are widely recognised to have lagged well behind those in West Germany in terms of air and water pollution, soil contamination, and countryside and nature conservation (Der Spiegel, 1990; Ardagh, 1991; Jones, 1994). However, as Huber (1993) noted, this was not always the case, and is an over-simplification of the situation. Until the first oil crisis of 1973, for example, the two German states were similar in both having a relatively poor environmental record. If anything, the GDR was more advanced in some aspects of its environmental policy. For example, the GDR