Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (literally: Alliance '90/The Greens), the German Green Party, is a political party in Germany whose regional predecessors were founded in the late 1970s as part of the new social movements. In 1980 the party was founded as "Die Grünen" on a federal level in West Germany. It is the oldest and thus far most politically successful of the world's many green parties. In 1989 and 1990 numerous civil rights groups in East Germany combined to form "Bündnis 90", which merged with "Die Grünen" in 1993. Since 1998, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen have been part of the coalition government on the national level.
The only party convention in 2003 was planned for November 2003, but about 20% of the local organisations forced the federal party to held a special party convention in Cottbus early to discuss the party position in regard to the Agenda 2010, a major reform of the German social security systems planned by chancellor Schröder.
The November 2003 party convention was held in Dresden and decided about the election plattform for the 2004 European Parliament elections. The German Green list for these elections was headed by Rebecca Harms (then leader of the Green parliament party in Lower Saxony) and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, previously Member of the European Parliament for Les Verts, the French Green Party. The November 2003 convention is also noted because it was the first convention of a German political party ever using an electronic voting system.
The Greens gained a record 13 of Germany's 99 seats in these elections, particularly on the back of the perceived competence of Green ministers in the federal government and the unpopularity of the SPD.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Rebecca Harms at the "Political Ash Wednesday" 2004 in Biberach/Riss
In the late 1970s, environmentalists and peace activists organized politically as the Greens (Die Grünen). Opposition to expanded use of nuclear power, to NATO strategy, and to certain aspects of highly industrialized society were principal campaign issues. Important figures in the first party years were amongst others Petra Kelly and Joseph Beuys.
1980s: Parliamentary representation on the federal level
In 1982 parts of the party broke away to form the Ecological Democratic Party. Those who remained in the Green party were more strongly anti-military and against restrictions on immigration and abortion, while supporting the decriminalization of marijuana use, placing a higher priority on working for the rights of gays and lesbians, and tending to advocate what they described as "anti-authoritarian" concepts of pedagogy and child-raising. They also tended to identify more closely with a culture of protest, frequently clashing with police at demonstrations against the Pershing missile deployment, against nuclear power, or against the construction of a new runway "Startbahn West" at Frankfurt airport. (Those who left the party might have felt similarly about some of these issues, but did not identify culturally with the forms of protest in which Green party members took part.)
After some success in state level and European parliament elections, the party first won seats in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, in the 1983 election; among the important issues at the time was the Pershing missile deployment by the U.S. and NATO on West German soil, and the newly formed party was able to use the mass demonstrations against this to recruit support. After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and a growing awareness of the pollution threat to German forests ("Waldsterben"), the Greens received 8.3% of the vote in the January 1987 West German national election.
1990s: German reunification, fall out of parliament
However, in the December 1990 all-German elections, the Greens in western Germany were not able to clear the 5% hurdle required to win seats in the Bundestag. It was only in the territory of the former GDR that the Greens, in a merger with Bündnis 90 (Alliance 90) (a loose grouping of civil rights activists with diverse political views), were able to clear the 5% hurdle and win Bundestag seats. Some people attribute this failure to the reluctance of the campaign to focus on issues of nationalism and patriotism, but instead concentrating on subjects such as climate change (a campaign poster at the time proudly said: "Everyone is talking about Germany; we're talking about the weather!"). In the 1994 election, Greens from East and West returned to the Bundestag with 7.3% and 49 seats.
1998-2002: Greens as governing party, first term
Photo taken at 2001 party convention
In 1998, despite a slight fall in their percentage of the vote (6.7%), the Greens retained 47 seats and joined the federal government for the first time in coalition with the Social Democrats. Joschka Fischer became vice chancellor and foreign minister in the new government, which had two other Green ministers (Andrea Fischer, later Renate Künast, and Jürgen Trittin).
Almost immediately, the party was plunged into a crisis by the question of German participation in the NATO actions in Kosovo. Numerous anti-war party members resigned their party membership when the first deployment of German troops in a military conflict abroad occurred under a Green government, and the party began to experience a long string of defeats in local and regional elections. Disappointment with the Green participation in government increased when anti-nuclear-power activists realized that shutting down the country's nuclear plants would not happen overnight, and numerous business-friendly SPD members of the federal cabinet opposed the environmentalist agenda of the Greens, necessitating far-reaching compromises.
In 2001, the party experienced a further crisis as some Green Members of Parliament refused to back the government's plan of sending soldiers to help with the 2001 U.S. Attack on Afghanistan. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called a vote of confidence, tying it to his strategy on the war. Four Green MPs and one Social Democrat voted against the government, but Schröder was still able to command a majority.
Photo taken at 2001 party convention
2002-...:Greens as governing party, second term
Despite the crises of the preceding electoral period, in 2002, the Greens increased their total to 55 seats (in a smaller parliament) and 8.6%. This was partly due to the perception that the internal debate over the war in Afghanistan had been more honest and open than in other parties, and one of the MPs who had voted against the Afghanistan deployment, Hans-Christian Ströbele, was directly elected to the Bundestag as a district representative for the Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain constituency in Berlin, becoming the first Green to ever achieve this in Germany. Certain lobby groups which had benefited from Green-initiated legislation in the 1998-2002 term, such as the environmental lobby (Renewable Energies Act) or gays and lesbians (Registered Partnership Law), also rewarded the party with their votes. Perhaps most importantly for determining the success of both the Greens and the SPD was the increasing threat of war in Iraq, which was highly unpopular with the German public, and helped gather votes for the parties which had taken a stand against participation in this war. Despite losses for the SPD, the coalition government with the Social Democrats commanded a very slight majority in the Bundestag and was renewed, with Joschka Fischer as foreign minister, Renate Künast as minister for consumer protection, nutrition and agriculture, and Jürgen Trittin as minister for the environment.
One internal issue in 2002 was a long and old discussion about the question of whether members of parliament should be allowed to become members of the party executive. Two party conventions declined to change the party statute. The necessary majority of two thirds wasn't reached by a very small margin. As a result, former party chairpersons Fritz Kuhn and Claudia Roth (who had been elected into parliament that year) were no longer able to continue in their executive function and were replaced by former party secretary general Reinhard Bütikofer and former Bundestag member Angelika Beer. The party then held a member referendum on this question in the spring of 2003 which did change the party statute. Now members of parliament may be elected for two of the six seats of the party executive, as long as they are not ministers or caucus leaders. 57 % of all party members voted in the member referendum, with 67 % voting in favor of the change. The referendum was only the second in the history of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, the first having been held about the merger of the Greens and Bündnis 90. In 2004, after Angelika Beer was elected to the European parliament, Claudia Roth was elected to replace her as party chair.
Literature about the German Green Party
- Frankland, E. Gene / Schoonmaker, Donald (1992): Between Protest & Power: The Green Party in Germany. Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford: Westview Press.
- Raschke, Joachim (1993): Die Grünen: Wie sie wurden, was sie sind. Köln: Bund-Verlag.
- Raschke, Joachim (2001): Die Zukunft der Grünen. Frankfurt am Main / New York: Campus.
- Veen, Hans-Joachim / Hoffmann, Jürgen (1992): Die Grünen zu Beginn der neunziger Jahre. Profil und Defizite einer fast etablierten Partei. Bonn / Berlin: Bouvier.
- Wiesenthal, Helmut (2000): "Profilkrise und Funktionswandel. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen auf dem Weg zu einem neuen Selbstverständnis", in Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B5 2000, S. 22-29.
- Official Homepage of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen with some English language information (http://www.gruene.de)
- Online archive at Heinrich Böll Foundation, German (http://www.boell.de/de/13_archiv/2192.html)
- "German Greens and Pax Europa" (English) The Nation article about Green foreign policy (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040719&s=hockenos)