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Synthesis/Regeneration 14   (Fall 1997)

Two views on Die Grünen - 2

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Germany - A Party Profile

by Regine Barth, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen have become a stable element in the German political system. On the national level and in most of the regions the party has come third in elections after the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD). While the SPD had a fairly weak performance in recent years and only lately has recovered, many say that Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in fact is the opposition party on the national level with a clear perspective of reform and change. In 4 out of 16 regions Bündnis 90/Die Grünen are part of the government in coalition with the SPD. A vast number of local councilors and several mayors, vice-mayors, and deputies influence the course of towns and cities and build a foundation for the party's establishment.

Finding combined solutions for the questions of ecology, economy and social justice rather than isolating them has become a crucial principle for the party.

Main political issues

The party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen is a result of recent German history. It was created in 1993 by associating the former Green Party "Die Grünen" and "Bündnis 90," an alliance of East German civil-rights movements.

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen stands for a profile which comprises different fields. Although Greens have managed to put environmental questions on the official agenda, adequate action has been denied. Terminating the devastation and exploitation of the environment and developing an ecologically sound way of production and living remains a fundamental goal. Fifteen years of conservative government in Germany and the undiminished belief in global growth have not only failed in the ecological sector. Growing social injustice and unemployment divide society into two parts. Although Germany is a rich country, immense public debts have accumulated. Finding integrated solutions for the questions of ecology, economy, and social justice rather than isolating them has become a crucial principle for the party. New and/or explicit proposals for ecological and social tax reform and reform of the income tax and social security systems that ensure an adequate basic income for those in need have been made by Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen have put more and more emphasis on the field of civil rights. The German Liberal Party (FDP), which once was a strong defender of civil rights, has given up this position. Therefore, it is even more up to the Greens to defend those rights and liberties.

Struggling for women's rights and feminism are also among the main concerns of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. Although equal rights formally have been established in most fields, there remains discrimination. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen emphasize the need for a fair sharing of family and working life between the genders. This calls for new rules for the distribution of professional work, including part time arrangements and periods of family leave for mothers and fathers.

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen commit themselves to European integration as a process of equal partners, including the states of Central and Eastern Europe.

The further development of foreign and security policy includes the strengthening of supra-national organizations like the Organization for Safety and Security in Europe (OSCE) and the UN. There is a growing resistance in Germany to further European integration and also right-wing tendencies towards renationalization. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen commit themselves to European integration as a process of equal partners, including the states of Central and Eastern Europe. This certainly does not prevent the Greens from criticizing democratic and social deficiencies of the EU, and its over-emphasis on the philosophy of the internal market and neoliberal economics.

In the field of security and peace, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen stand for a policy of non-military solution of conflicts. Instead of enlarging NATO, the OSCE process should be strengthened. German peace-keeping contingents should operate only under a clear international mandate and not be structured as military forces.

Current situation

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen have about 48,600 members, less than 10% of whom are in former East Germany. Though our number are growing, the membership of the major opponents is much higher. An explicit campaign to win new Green members has been launched recently.

The party is organized on three levels which follow the country's structure. There is the national level, with its headquarters in Bonn (Berlin beginning in 1999). At the level of the Länder (regions), there are 16 regional sections which have a certain amount of autonomy, and then there is the local level. For all levels there are executive committees with 7-12 members. Usually two members are elected as the spokespersons. In most of the party's sections MPs are not allowed on the committees. There is an obligatory quota for woman in all bodies and on the lists of candidates for parliamentary elections. At least half of the available seats must be reserved for women. Exceptions are possible within certain restrictive rules.

An explicit campaign to win new Green members has been launched recently.

Since the 1994 elections, the party is represented in the European Parliament by 12 MEPs and in the national Parliament (Bundestag) by 48 MPs. Only 4 out of 16 regions do not have Green parliamentarians. In these four East German regions, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen did not make the 5% threshold. Overcoming the difference in performance between East and West is one of the major challenges in the near future. In 1998 and 1999 all of the East German regions will have elections. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen will have to show that they do not only succeed in West Germany.

Currently there are four coalitions with the SPD on regional level: Hessen since 1991, Sachsen-Anhalt since 1994, Nordrhein-Westfalen since 1995 and Schleswig-Holstein since 1996. After the elections this fall in Hamburg the Greens hope to install one more coalition there. All major cities and a large majority of the existing municipalities have Green councilors. In Nordrhein-Westfalen alone there are more than 100 cities and towns where Bündnis 90/Die Grünen are part of the local government.

The electorate of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen consists of various social groups. The best results are gained among people between the age of 25 and 40 and the percentage among women is higher than among men. Results are much higher in cities than in rural areas. The majority of Green voters have a higher education level.

The party has overcome the paralyzing internal fights of the 80's between different groups ("Fundis", "Realos" etc.). There are still different strategic and political approaches within the party, but the effort of recent years has been to discuss them in a productive way and to put the emphasis on common goals.

The role of the party within the political system in Germany has slightly changed. Today the challenge is to prove that Bündnis 90/Die Grünen has better concepts, be it in government or in opposition, and to find solid majorities within the society for its projects. The possibility of sustainable reforms depends on the performance of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. The focus now is on the national elections in 1998. Chancellor Kohl and his government have continually lost support due to their inability to solve problems and their policy of cutting social benefits instead of making true reforms. Opinion polls at this time show a majority for the SPD and Greens on the national level, but the ruling party always has regained support in the months preceding the elections.

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