Green politics

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Stylized sunflower , international symbol of green politics

Green politics (sometimes referred to as eco-politics ) is a political current that strives for an environmentally sustainable society based on non-violence , social justice and consistent democracy . The term originated in the western world in the 1970s when green parties first developed in Germany and later in other countries.


The historian Jens Ivo Engels differentiates between public and non-public politics with regard to the early environmental movement . The Bremer Grüne Liste (BGL), founded in 1973, saw itself from the beginning as a protest movement and was the first political organization to use the term green outside of parliament and later also inside parliament. The first green parties were seen as “one-topic parties” because they were primarily committed to protecting the environment. Over the years, the subject area expanded to include energy policy, nuclear energy, traffic development and the discussion between ecology and economy. The difference to the state environmental policy of the socially liberal German federal government since 1969 was partially emphasized. In 1970 the federal government passed an immediate environmental protection program and on September 29, 1971 the first environmental program. The FDP , which with Hans-Dietrich Genscher provided the interior minister, was - also in 1971 - the first party to include the issue of environmental protection in its program.


Engels writes about the previous history: "It is not easy to determine which organizations and institutions belonged to the notorious candidates for resistance alliances ." This is what he calls the state of Bremen , the city of Hanover , the Bund Naturschutz in Bayern , the German Animal Welfare Association , which are already active 1957/1958 joined the protection and research community Knechtsand , "an impressive example of a formal expansion of a local alliance".

In the old Federal Republic of Germany a wide range of new social movements emerged in the 1970s . Important currents were the environmental , peace , human rights , third world , women's movements and the squatter movement . However, the anti-nuclear movement developed into the strongest force . The integrative power of the established party system had slackened significantly, because nowhere, not even within the SPD , could the opponents of nuclear power gain significant influence. The alternative movement therefore initially appeared as an extra-parliamentary opposition with a low degree of institutionalization.

The " laughing sun ", logo of the anti-nuclear movement

Internationally, the movement was influenced by the demands of indigenous peoples , for example in connection with the protest against large industrial projects (construction of large dams, oil or uranium extraction, nuclear tests, disposal of toxic waste).

An initial spark for the emerging ecological movement was the report “ Limits to Growth ” by the Club of Rome , which appeared in 1972 and for the first time put environmental issues at the center of general awareness. This was followed by a number of other books that promoted the discussion of the topic, including 1975 "Ende oder Wende" by the former SPD Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation , Erhard Eppler , and " A Planet is plundered " by CDU Bundestag member Herbert Gruhl and in 1977 " Small is Beautiful ”by Ernst Friedrich Schumacher and the study Global 2000 published in 1980 .

Large, traditional nature conservation and environmental organizations such as the German Association for the Protection of Birds (founded in 1899, now NABU), the German Heimatbund as the umbrella organization of Heimatvereine (1904), the German Forest Protection Association (1947), the World Association for the Protection of Life (in Germany since 1960 ), the originally socialist, later social democratic friends of nature (1895) and the WWF founded in 1963 supported the ecological movement. In 1971 the Federation for Environmental Protection and in 1975 the Federation for Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) was founded. As the umbrella organization of the large nature conservation organizations, the German Nature Protection Ring existed since 1950 and the Federal Association of Citizens 'Initiatives Environmental Protection (BBU) for citizens' initiatives in the field of environmental protection since 1972 . Many environmentalists were Christian or conservative , concerned about the preservation of creation and had internalized Christian social teaching . An example of the conservative attitude are the publications of the World Association for the Protection of Life (WSL), who wrote in May 1978: “The technical progress euphoria of our century is proving to be the greatest error and wrong path that mankind has made in its history is. "

The electoral successes of left electoral alliances, including environmentalists, in the French local elections in March 1977 intensified considerations within the West German groups to participate in elections and develop their own parliamentary force, especially in view of the massive police measures in connection with the anti-nuclear protests the extra-parliamentary resistance no longer seemed capable of increasing. After a first nuclear power plant in Wyhl am Kaiserstuhl had been prevented by the local population, there was an escalation in the Lower Elbe region in 1976/77. Near Hamburg there were already nuclear power plants in Krümmel , Stade and Brunsbüttel when the Schleswig-Holstein CDU state government together with the SPD-led federal government under Helmut Schmidt established Brokdorf as a further location. The start of construction led to nationwide mass mobilization and the "Battle of Brokdorf", during which there were violent actions by police and demonstrators.

The first Green politician to be elected to a national parliament is Daniel Brélaz , who in 1978 represented the canton of Vaud in the Swiss National Council for the regional environmental protection group Groupement pour la protection de l'environnement and its elaborated political program in French- speaking Switzerland .


Today green parties are represented in many countries around the world. The following explanations therefore only represent an excerpt.


The Bremen Green List (BGL) was founded in 1973, and in the following years other green parties emerged, such as the Green List Environmental Protection (GLU) 1977. The GLU took part in the local elections in Lower Saxony in 1977 and received a 1.2% seat in the District council of the Hildesheim district.

On July 12, 1978, the German Bundestag member Herbert Gruhl resigned from the CDU to great media coverage, but retained his parliamentary mandate. On this occasion, he read an open letter in the television program Report to the then Federal Chairman of the CDU and later Chancellor Helmut Kohl , in which he accused the CDU of sticking to the growth policy of the 1960s and thus the "completely new problem of today's world" in misunderstanding economic and ecological aspects. Gruhl also justified his resignation from the CDU with their “demand for the neutron weapon ”. One day after separating from the CDU, Gruhl founded the Green Action Future (GAZ). He was supported in the following years by Franz Alt , who only left the CDU in 1988.

In the state elections on October 15, 1978 in Bavaria , the Action Group for Independent Germans (AUD), the GAZ and the “Green List Bavaria” (GLB) founded by former CSU members formed an electoral alliance that was first named “The Greens” .

In October 1979, the Bremen Green List moved into the state parliament of the city-state with 5.1%. In March 1980, the Greens in Baden-Württemberg, with 5.3%, made their first entry into the parliament of an area federal state.

ÖDP logo from 1982 to 1997

The Green Party was founded on January 13, 1980 in Karlsruhe . Over the years, more ecologically-oriented small parties emerged, some as splits from the Greens, such as the ÖDP in 1982 and the Ecological Left in 1991.

The entry of the Greens into the Bundestag in 1983 and the start of parliamentary work as part of the opposition to the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) was an important step towards recognizing this new political trend.

In 1988, as an important sign of the fundamental changes in the GDR, the green-ecological network Arche was established in the former GDR . At a founding meeting of the Green League on November 18, 1989, the "Arche" gave the impetus for the founding of its own Green Party with an appeal at the same time .

The Green League was also founded in the GDR in 1989/1990 as a “network of ecological movements”. The formal founding meeting took place on February 3, 1990 in Halle / Saale. The roots of the Green League lie in the church's environmental movement. It pursued the goal of networking as many East German environmental groups as possible, but only appeared as a party-political organization in 1989/1990. In 2003 the network had about 29,000 members.

From February to April 1990, the Green Party and the Green League were each represented by a minister without portfolio in the Modrow cabinet . One day after the first all-German federal election , on December 3, 1990, the Green Party (with the exception of the Saxon state association) merged with the West German Greens.

The ecological left was founded in 1991 primarily on the initiative of Jutta Ditfurth and describes itself as eco-socialist. However, it was only of minor local political importance.

On May 14, 1993, the Greens united with Bündnis 90 , a party in which several civil movements from the former GDR had come together in 1991 to form Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . This party gained increasing importance, while all other green parties and parties closely related to the ecological movements in Germany received little media attention, mainly due to the membership movement and the concentration on very specific topics such as animal welfare . The ÖDP alone, with around 6,000 members and numerous local political mandates, was able to assert itself among the ten strongest parties in Germany.

Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen , logo since 2008


Green parties in national governments (dark green), national parliaments (light green) and without national seats (yellow) - as of January 2016

In the run-up to the 1979 European elections , the European Ecological Campaign (ECOROPA) was founded on the initiative of the German Green List Environmental Protection , which included parties and voter associations from 14 countries. Only the Italian Partito Radicale was able to move into a national parliament. It had existed since 1955, was anti-authoritarian and (left-) libertarian and also served as a reservoir for the new social movements , but it was not a green party in the true sense of the word. In 1983 she left the European Union of Green Parties. Also in the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway “green” issues were taken up by existing parties, namely the Socialistisk Folkeparti in Denmark, Sosialistisk Folkeparti in Norway and Pacifist Socialist Partij and Politieke Partij Radicals in the Netherlands. For this reason, “purely” green parties did not initially emerge there, or they did not play an essential role.

In the run-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , around 200 representatives of green groups from 28 countries met in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

On June 20, 1993, the European Federation of Green Parties (EFGP) was founded. In 1996, 69 Green parties from all over the world signed a protest note against the French nuclear weapons tests in Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific.

The international Global Greens were founded in 2001 at a conference in Canberra. On February 21, 2004, the European Green Party was finally founded in Rome .

Green parties were or are involved in government in various countries - often, but not always, in coalitions with social democratic parties. The first Green government participation at national level occurred during the fall of the Wall in the GDR, when the Green League and the Green Party were each represented by a minister without a portfolio in the Modrow government from February to March 1990 . The Green Bund in Finland joined a so-called rainbow coalition in 1995 and, in Pekka Haavisto, provided the first green minister in a western country. In Italy, the Federazione dei Verdi was part of the center-left alliances L'Ulivo and L'Unione , which ruled from 1996 to 2001 and from 2006 to 2008. In France, Les Verts and Europe Écologie Les Verts were junior partners of the Parti socialiste from 1997 to 2002 and from 2012 to 2014 . In Germany there was a red-green coalition under Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer from 1998 to 2005 . A coalition of Flemish and Walloon Liberals, Socialists and Greens ruled in Belgium from 1999 to 2003, known as the "purple-green" or the "rainbow coalition".

Indulis Emsis , Prime Minister of Latvia from March to December 2004, was the world's first green head of government. A coalition of conservatives, Christian democrats and the green Strana zelených ruled the Czech Republic from 2007 to 2009 . In Ireland, the Green Party ruled from 2007 to 2011 together with the Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats . The Socialistisk Folkeparti in Denmark, which also belongs to the green party family, was the junior partner of the Social Democrats under Helle Thorning-Schmidt from 2011 to 2014 . In Luxembourg, Déi Gréng have been part of the so-called Gambia coalition with liberals and socialists since 2013. The Swedish Miljöpartiet de Gröna has been in a minority government with the Social Democrats since 2014 . the Green Party of the citizens' will in Mongolia from 2012 to 2016 was the third partner in a coalition government. In Austria, the Greens have been a coalition partner of the ÖVP of the Federal Government Short II since 2020 .


Since Herbert Gruhl kept his parliamentary mandate after leaving the CDU, he is considered the first green member of the Bundestag. Formally he represented the Green Action Future party . He left the Greens on January 18, 1981, and with him resigned about a third of the members. In 1988 Gruhl led the newly founded ÖDP to a respectable success in the state elections of Baden-Württemberg with a result of 1.4 percent and remained its federal chairman until 1989.

From 1985 to 1987 and 1991 to 1994 Joschka Fischer was Environment Minister in Hesse. Among other things, he advocated the withdrawal of the license for the Hanau nuclear company Nukem , in whose atomic factory there was an explosion on January 20, 1987. With his other offices from 1998 to 2005 as Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and from January 1, 1999 to June 30, 1999 as President of the Council of the European Union , he was the first green politician to focus on the this political current gave rise to new topics in foreign policy.

From February to April 1990 Matthias Platzeck was Minister without Portfolio for the Green Party in the GDR in the cabinet of Prime Minister Hans Modrow ( SED ). The Green League sent Klaus Schlueter to the Modrow government.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit was an integrating figure of the European Greens. He is a member of both the German and French Greens and was a member of the European Parliament from 1994 to 2014. In Germany he was the green top candidate in 2004, in France in 1999 and 2009.

Under Jürgen Trittin , who was Federal Environment Minister from 1998 to 2005, the so-called energy turnaround began with the Renewable Energy Sources Act , which came into force on April 1, 2000. A few months later, on June 14, 2000, the nuclear consensus was initiated by a contract between the Federal Republic of Germany and the operating companies, which provided for the nuclear phase-out within 32 years.

Renate Künast was Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection from 2001 to 2005. She implemented the agricultural turnaround , a reform package that aimed to strengthen consumer protection, promote organic farming and expand animal welfare .

Winfried Kretschmann has been Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg since May 12, 2011, making him the first Prime Minister of a German state appointed by the Greens.

In January 2014, Ska Keller was chosen as the top candidate of the European Green Party for the 2014 European elections and has been co-chair of the group The Greens / European Free Alliance in the European Parliament since December 2016 .

On May 22nd, 2016, the long-time federal spokesman for the Austrian Greens , Alexander Van der Bellen , was elected President. Officially independent but supported by the Greens, Van der Bellen received 21.3% of the votes in the first round of the Federal President's election, the best nationwide result for Austria's Greens to date. In the runoff election against Norbert Hofer from the FPÖ, Van der Bellen prevailed with 50.3% of the vote. Because of irregularities in the election process, the runoff election was declared invalid and had to be repeated throughout Austria. When the run-off election was repeated on December 4, 2016, he was elected Federal President with 53.8%. On the day of his election, Alexander Van der Bellen suspended his membership in the Greens.


  • Rudolf Brun (ed.): The green protest. Challenge from the environmental parties. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1978.
  • Joachim Grupp: Farewell to the principles. The Greens between coalition and opposition. Edition Ahrens 1986.
  • Wolf-Dieter, Conny Hasenclever: Green times. Politics for a future worth living. Kösel-Verlag Munich 1982.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Basic program Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen 2002, p. 10
  2. ^ A b c Jens Ivo Engels: Natural politics in the Federal Republic: world of ideas and political behavioral styles in nature conservation and environmental movement 1950–1980, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2006
  4. Pictures of the downfall - FDP interior minister Genscher wants to force the industry to invest billions with an “environmental program of the federal government”. But the entrepreneurs hope for protection from dual minister Schiller. In: Der Spiegel. No. 24 of June 7, 1971.
  5. To Iroquois Perspective. Pp. 173, 174 in American Indian Environments: Ecological Issues in Native American History. Vecsey C, Venables RW (Editors). Syracuse University Press, New York
  6. UN website on Free, Prior and Informed Consent ( Memento of June 15, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 50 kB).
  7. WSL-Info 4, four-page leaflet "The Green Reformation", published by the World Association for the Protection of Life eV, Federal Association of Germany, Vlotho in May 1978
  8. ^ Herbert Gruhl: Leaving the party from the CDU (1978). In: Herbert Gruhl: Among the caravans of the blind. Edited by V. Kempf. Frankfurt a. M. 2005, pp. 135-138, here p. 135.
  9. ^ Neubert: History of the Opposition in the GDR 1949–1989. 2000, pp. 750, 812.
  10. a b (PDF).
  11. ^ Ferdinand Müller-Rommel : Green parties in Western Europe. Development phases and conditions for success. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1993, p. 79.
  12. ^ Elizabeth Bomberg: Green Parties and Politics in the European Union. Routledge, London / New York 2005, p. 70.
  13. ^ Neil Carter: The Politics of the Environment. Ideas, Activism, Policy. 3rd edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2018, p. 107.
  14. ^ A b John Rensenbrink: Global Greens Network - a brief history up to 2003 . Global Greens. August 2003.
  15. ^ So Ludger Volmer : The Greens. Munich 2009, p. 15.
  16. Jürgen Wüst: Conservatism and Ecological Movement. An investigation into the tension between party, movement and ideology using the example of the Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP). IKO - publishing house for intercultural communications, Frankfurt am Main 1993.
  17. Nukem hushed up incident: 300 people irradiated. In: The daily newspaper. June 8, 1998.
  18. ↑ Contestation of the election: Supreme Court completely revokes the runoff election. In: . July 1, 2016, accessed July 1, 2016 .
  19. ^ Federal President election 2016 - final overall result - repetition of the 2nd ballot. Retrieved March 9, 2017 .