Gateway Green Alliance/Green Party of St. Louis

Thursday, November 18 11:29 AM SGT
Subject: From Yahoo News: Enfeebled German Greens rethink strategy

Enfeebled German Greens rethink strategy

KASSEL, Germany, Nov 18 (AFP) -

German Greens will meet here from Friday night to rethink strategy after a year of coalition government with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that has left them enfeebled.

With the watchword "Back to politics," some 400 Green delegates will gather in this central German city to find ways of pulling out of the mire that has come of sharing government with Schroeder's Social Democrat Party (SPD).

The delegates will draft a new Green programme which they hope to have ready by the beginning of 2001.

The party's three government ministers are due to attend. On Friday, low-profile Health Minister Andrea Fischer will make a speech, while the better known environment and foreign ministers, Juergen Trittin and Joschka Fischer, will speak on Saturday and Sunday on ecology and foreign policy.

Gunda Roestel, joint spokesperson of the Greens, said the party must learn the lesson of its recent electoral reverses and realise that voters' approval "is not always automatic."

"We have to decide whether we want to be a footnote of history, or a fixture," she said, adding: "Our party has always concentrated on the future."

No major decisions are expected from Kassel, with discussions of the political programme due to held in in regional meetings in coming months.

Outsiders -- researchers and social scientists -- will also address the Kassel conference, along with Green critic Hans-Olaf Henkel, president of the German employers' association BDI.

Some Greens leaders have threatened to pull out of the governing coalition after seeing their electorate shrink drastically.

After compromise on compromise in which the Greens had to drop plank after plank of their government programme, Greens joint president Antje Radcke threatened to leave the year-old coalition if the government did not decide soon to abandon nuclear energy.

She said that persistent argument with the SPD over the nuclear issue meant that the Greens would have to hold a special conference to decide whether to stay in the government.

But other Greens leaders have been less categorical. Kerstin Mueller, joint chairwoman of the Greens group in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, said the record of a year in government was nothing to be ashamed of, even though she conceded some "mistakes" had been made.

The issues are not clear for the rank-and-file. In several regions, disgruntled former supporters of the SPD-Greens alliance have raised their voices. On October 2, a local branch of the Greens in Bavaria demanded a special party conference to make a clean break with the government coalition.

For such a conference to be staged, at least 10 percent of the party's 470 branches would have to vote for it, however. Last May at another party meeting in Bielefeld, in the north of the country, the Greens openly split between opponents of military action in Kosovo and supporters of Joschka Fischer.

In recent months, dissensions within the Greens have cost the party dear. In Berlin regional elections, they scored less than 10 percent -- 9.9 percent compared with 13.2 percent in 1995, losing nearly a quarter of their voters. In other regional elections -- Saxony, Hesse, Brandenburg, Sarre and Thuringen -- the performance was similar.

Green militants believe they have been entrapped by the SPD, which has forced them to swallow their principles -- in particular adjourning for the foreseeable future the abandonment of nuclear energy, even though it was clearly featured in the government programme, and the party was divided over German participation in the Kosovo conflict.

More recently, delivery of the prototype Leopard II tank to the Turkish army and negotiations with Greece, which wants to buy anti-tank mines from Germany, have convinced many Greens they are being used as stooges by Schroeder.

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