Green Identity in a Changing Europe

The Greens, a Force for Europe

The German Greens first fielded candidates nation-wide in the 1979 European Parliament elections. The Sonstige Politische Vereinigung DIE GRÜNEN, polling 3.25% of the vote, surprised everybody and this was a decisive factor in the founding of a national party, Die Grünen, the following year. Five years later history was made as a colourful mixture of Belgians, Germans, Italians and Dutch, known as the Green Alternative European Link (GRAEL) formed the first Green group in the European Parliament. Since then a lot has happened. An increasing number of countries have seen Green parties gain parliamentary experience, in the course of which they have moved from being a protest party to one pursuing concrete change based on targeted reform. Then there was 1989 and the collapse of the communist system. Barely one year later, German reunification became a reality and by 2004, with the entry of Central European and Baltic states into the European Union (EU), the East-West division of the continent had essentially disappeared. The political landscape had fundamentally changed – for the Greens as well.

In Western Europe, green ideas have now found their way into the political and social mainstream. New political identities have emerged and in many countries there have been tectonic political shifts as the Greens have moved from being an anti-establishment party to one ready and able to take on the responsibility of government. The new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe are still undergoing a transition process and struggle for political identities. They have broken with their communist past and are trying to align themselves with the political movements in the “old democracies”, but in many cases the party system is still fragile and poorly anchored in society. The Green parties, still a new element in the political landscape of these countries, are finding it hard to position themselves within the political spectrum and gain the trust of the electorates. For the most part, Green parties play only a marginal role in the new democracies insofar they exist at all. In contrast, however, the Greens are part of centre-right governments in the Czech Republic and Latvia, as is the case in Finland and Ireland. In Western Europe, especially in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy the Greens have already participated in centre-left coalitions. While the Italian Greens are currently experiencing a crisis and need to redefine themselves, the German Greens have new options that transcend the old political camps. They can join: a “traffic light” coalition with the Social Democrats or Liberals; a “Jamaican flag” coalition with the Christian Democrats and Liberals; a coalition with the Christian Democrats, as in Hamburg; or a left leaning alliance with Social Democrats and left wing socialists as aspired to in Hesse. The political spectrum has taken on a new pattern and the Greens are now able to form varied political alliances but this has brought with it the challenge of having to hone a sharper political profile.
Green parties in many countries find themselvesin a process of reorientation. They are searching for independent and credible answers to the challenges of globalisation, climate change and the energy crisis. The European Parliament elections in June 2009 will be a new litmus test for the Greens. Given the different positions of the various Green parties in the European Union member states, it will be difficult, in the short term, for the movement to blossom into a thriving Europe wide force. There is, however, a glimmer of hope. The establishment of the European Green Party in February 2004 marked an important milestone for the green movement. With their common European Parliament election campaign in 2004, they entered new political territory. This cooperation needs to be continued in the run up to the 2009 European Parliament elections. The continuing problem of failure to agree EU reform as proposed in the Lisbon Treaty has slowed the Union in its tracks. The Greens will need to make it clear to their electorates why it is so important to support the European project.
One major European initiative could be the proposal of former EU Commissioner, Michaele Schreyer for a European Community for Renewable Energy (ERENE). There are other issues, however, that could also form an important part of the Green political agenda: the expansion of the EU’s enlargement process; the democratisation of the European institutions; migration policy; the protection of civil rights as well as the role of foreign and security policy in international affairs. The Heinrich Böll Foundation wishes to play a part in this process. The attainment of green ambitions is not possible without the European Union but the European project also needs the Greens if it is to forge a closer and more lasting relationship with its citizens.

We have invited authors from eight European countries to write about the identity and ambitions of the Green parties in their countries. What factors have influenced individual Green party development? How have they adapted to these influences and what are their future prospects? We have also asked for contributions from some of the original Euro-Greens, who were part of the first “chaotic” Green group that entered the European Parliament in 1984. What did Green politics mean at that time and how do they now perceive the results and future prospects of their policies? Finally, we asked some of the younger generation how they view this record and what they would like to see in the future. The answers to these questions can be found in this publication.

Ralf Fücks
Berlin, October 2008

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Heinrich Böll Foundation
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Table of contents

Part One
Between Struggle for Existence and Ministerial Posts: the National Tales

1. Melanie Haas: The German Greens: Past, Present and Future
2. Sergio Andreis: Have We Created a Monster? The Rise and Fall of the Italian Greens
3. Benoît Lechat: Ecolo, an Evergreen Story at the Heart of Europe
4. Johan Malcorps: Groen! – A Tale of Falling Down and Getting Up Again
5. Tommy Simpson: From Pressure Group to Government Partner – The Irish Way
6. Pekka Haavisto: The Greens in Finland – From Grassroots to Government
7. Veiko Spolitis: Taking Root in Unfertile Soil: the Growth of the Estonian Green Parties
8. Šádí Shanaáh: The Czech Green Party: Brief Success or Lasting Presence?
9. Agnieszka Grzybek and Dariusz Szwed: Zieloni 2004 – Scenes From a Long March

Part Two
The Greening of the European Project

10. Bram van der Lek: Intrusion of a Motley Crew: the First Green Group in the European Parliament
11. Frieder Otto Wolf: Magic Moments From the Past
12. Ali Yurttagül: Migration, Asylum, Civil Rights and Minorities
13. Annette Görlich, Margret Krannich and Annemiek Onstenk: Breaking New Ground – The Women’s Bureau
14. Barbarita Schreiber: Dogged Workers for Sustainable Solutions
15. Hannes Lorenzen: Green Agricultural Policy – The Perennial Battle
16. Bartek Lech: Ready for a Bumpy Ride
17. Judith Verweijen: Recipes From the Young Green Kitchen
18. Reinhard Bütikofer: As Greens We Need Europe and Europe Needs Us