Germany's Greens Stroll Back into Power

BERLIN, Germany, September 23, 2002 (ENS) - Environmental protection will continue to be at the heart of the German government's domestic policy for the next four years after an impressive showing by the Greens in yesterday's general election secured a second term for the current Social Democratic Party-Green coalition government. The political reverberations will be felt throughout Europe.

The SPD-Green government's return to power, unthinkable prior to the disastrous floods in eastern Germany last month, means continuity for key elements of its first term environmental agenda.


German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder celebrates his re-election (Photo courtesy SPD)
Most controversial of these are increased energy taxes under an ecological tax reform program, the historic deal on phasing out nuclear power, and planned deposits on one-way drinks containers to defend refillables.

Further environmental strides are possible as the Greens are entering coalition talks in a stronger position than they were in four years ago.

With the surprise fall in the liberal Free Democratic Party's vote, the Greens are now Germany's third largest party.

Boosted by the August floods and an energetic election campaign by their co-leader Joschka Fischer, the party polled 8.6 percent of the vote and will have 55 seats in parliament, up from 6.7 percent of the vote and 47 seats in 1998.

As a result, the Greens are expected to win four ministerial posts compared with three in the outgoing government and to press for stronger environmental protection measures.

"You can expect that one of the key components of the coalition agreement will be the continued ecological renewal of Germany," said Fischer, foreign minister and co-leader of the Greens at a news conference in Berlin today.


German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin of the Greens (Photo courtesy ENB)
The SPD and Greens disagree over several important aspects of environmental policy, including whether energy taxes should continue to rise and whether subsidies to the coal industry should remain.

Green environmentalism may not triumph over SPD pragmatism on these issues, but the environmentalist party could win more ambitious goals for promoting renewables, cutting greenhouse gases and encouraging organic farming.

Due to the absence of other equally qualified Green candidates, Environment Minister Juergen Trittin and Agriculture Minister Renate Künast are likely to remain in their posts.

German environmental group Bund, in English, Friends of the Earth Germany, suggested today that the party could well win the transport ministry as well.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}