History of green parties in Europe and in the World
The European Federation of Green Parties
– 31 member parties from Ireland to Georgia, from Malta to Norway
The Greening of Europe Begins
The Green movement as an electoral force is young. The first ecological and alternative political groups emerged in the 1960’s, but most European Green parties were not created until a decade or more later.
The very first ecology party in Europe emerged in Britain in 1973. The European elections of 1989 was a spectacular success for the UK Greens, who scored 15 % of the votes. Due to the first-past-the-post electoral system, however, the 2.5 million votes did not translate into one single seat in the European Parliament.
In Belgium the French speaking Ecolo was formed in 1980 and gained 5% of the votes and five deputies in 1981. Their Flemish speaking sister party AGALEV had their breakthrough in the local elections of 1982, obtaining 50 local council members. In Italy, the first Greens entered Parliament in 1987, when the list of the ecological movement – Lista Verdi – got 13 MP’s and two senators. The Georgia Greens have had a substantial following from their start in the same year.
The German Greens are generally regarded as the Mother of all Green parties, although they are not the oldest or the first Green Party to enter national parliament. But their significance comes from being the first Green party to have a strong presence in the legislature of a large nation. The big break came in 1983, when Die Grünen attracted nearly a million votes (5.6 %) and gained 28 seats out of 497 in the federal Parliament.
A Need for International Cooperation Emerges
As Green parties developed in several countries, the interest to co-operate with other Greens increased. Thus the first European organization was born in 1984, when the Green parties of Benelux, UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland met in Liège, Belgium and formed the European Coordination of Green Parties.
As membership grew, new issues, ideas and initiatives emerged in rapid succession. Important events in Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s called for Green action on a European scale, among those to democratize the European Union and ensure a peaceful transition to a post-Communist era in Central and Eastern Europe.
The need for a common body, mandated to speak on behalf of the Greens in Europe on such issues was felt and in June 1993 in Helsinki, Finland the Coordination was transformed into the European Federation of Green Parties.
Green Visions for Europe
The Federation promotes the development of a sustainable and socially just Europe. This means to develop a new perspective for the European Union, elaborate a concept for conflict prevention and non-violence in Europe, support the transition of the new democracies in East and Central Europe, as well as to participate in the development of alternative global structures in cooperation with Greens elsewhere.
The Guiding Principles
The political basis of the Federation are the Guiding Principles, adopted by the member parties:
The European Greens want eco-development. The economy must adapt to what the natural environment can tolerate. The aims of the Green economy are ecological sustainability, equity and social justice as well as self-reliance of local and regional economies, encouraging a true sense of community. Eco-development has to be based on democracy, transparency, gender equality and the right of all people to express themselves and participate fully in decision-making.
The Greens advocate a comprehensive concept of global security, which cannot be defined solely in military terms. Therefore, Green policies concentrate on the prevention of armed conflicts, on removing the causes of war and on developing ways to peaceful conflict resolution. Efforts to combat racism, for mutual understanding and respect for other cultures and, above all else, to end global poverty, would be Europe’s strongest and most effective security plan.
Nuclear disarmament and a comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are urgent priorities. The Greens want all exports of European military and nuclear technology controlled, reduced and eventually eliminated. The UN should be given extended possibilities to strengthen peace and development, and be more efficient in peace keeping activities.
The Greens advocate a new citizenship, where human rights and rights of minorities, the civil rights of immigrants and the individual’s right to asylum are fundamental. Basic human rights include the right to healthy and clean environment; to free education, social protection and paid work; to full participation regardless of gender, race, creed, birthplace, parentage, disability or sexuality. There should be greater democratic control and openness in institutions of power.
A Dialogue Between East and West
It has been imperative from the very beginning that the perspective of the Federation should transcend the boundaries of Western Europe. The Green East-West Dialogue project was therefore commissioned to improve co-operation between Eastern and Western member parties. Today, some of the members have their own foundations for Green East-West cooperation.
Sustainable Development around the Mediterranean
Europe needs to develop new, fruitful relationships with its neighbours on the shores of the Mediterranean – a Sea with unique heritage as a crossroads of peoples and cradle of civilizations. While the European Union has focussed on developing this area into „the Worlds largest free trade area in 2010”, the Greens see the need for much more action to make this a genuine Mediterranean community:
A Euro-Mediterranean partnership must be built from the ground up and no countries should be excluded from this process. Dwindling water and arable land as well as increasing pollution show the urgent need for ecological conversion and sustainable development. Cooperation to share vital resources can be a potentially unifying factor in the area.
The EU Meda funding programme for the Mediterranean should be drastically reoriented and concentrate on anti-pollution, reforestation, water management and development of public transport. Renewable energy, such as solar energy, is a key to sustainable development. The Mediterranean also needs support for peace processes, cultural heritage, technical research and training. Equal rights for immigrants and the right to asylum should be respected. Security in the area has civilian as well as military dimensions.
Ecological Conversion – the Key to Security for Baltic Region
In May 1996, the Federation and the Greens in the European Parliament adopted a policy for the Baltic region. Among other things, it was agreed that the Eu should promote growing regional cooperation, particularly in view of possible accession of Poland and the Baltic States into the Union. EU financial assistance should be coordinated and the economic, social and environmental dimensions of security and stability stressed. The regional HELCOM environmental commission should be given rights to take binding decisions and work out a coordinated project for sustainable development throughout the region.
A Baltic Sea Regional Environment Fund should be set up to finance modern ecological conversion of the Baltic Sea, including sewage treatment, waste disposal, conversion management, new legislation and ecological conversion of industry and agriculture. This is the strongest contribution to security in the region and will also stimulate job creation. A full survey should be done of nuclear waste and other radiation in the region. Both the particularly dangerous nuclear power plants in the region and the Western nuclear plants should be closed. The EU Schengen agreement may jeopardize the freedom of movement agreed to in the Nordic Passport Union and goes contrary to openness and protection of human rights in the region.
Greens on the European Union
Just before the EU launched its Inter-governmental Conference in March 1996, the Council of the Federation adopted a Green IGC document. The Green concept of a reform of the EU Maastricht Treaty includes the following:
Any significant changes of the Treaty should be put to a popular vote in each member country. An increased openness and access to public information is needed. The Union must be open to all democratic European States prepared to join. The EU economic integration and decision-making processes must be substantially revised to make essential social and economic reforms possible.
Sustainable development, environmental protection and social regulations should be adopted as aims of the EU in addition to the four „Basic Freedoms”. Member states must be allowed to impose measures beyond the environmental minimum standards set by the Union. The EURATOM Treaty should be dissolved. Renewable energy sources and energy conservation should be promoted. Nuclear power should be phased out and transportation of nuclear waste between countries stopped.
The commitment of the European Union to social justice should be strengthened and opting-out must be stopped. Job creation, work sharing and a reduction of working hours should be promoted. A European Monetary Union should only be approved if social criteria are added to the monetary convergence criteria. EMU should be introduced only if and when the majority of member countries fulfill the criteria. There should be a shift from taxation of income to consumption of energy and raw materials (ecotaxes) and environmental impact assessments should be mandatory.
A Peace-oriented Common Foreign Security Policy is important towards demilitarizing Europe and dissolving NATO. No member state should be forced to take part in any common action. A European Civil Peace Corps should be established. Peace keeping forces should operate under the UN or the OSCE.
The European citizenship needs to be extended to all legal residents. The EU should become a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. A non-discriminatory status for all legal residents in the Union should be established, by extending the basic social and economic rights to cover all residents. Asylum, immigration, police cooperation and judicial affairs matters must be put under parliamentary control.
EU decision-making must become more open and democratic. Regional structures should be given more autonomy. A paragraph should be added to the Treaty, recognizing the right of member states to withdraw from the Union.
Member Parties of the Federation
The Federation has 31 member parties from 29 countries all over Europe: from Ireland to Georgia as well as from Malta to Norway. Different circumstances and conditions have shaped these parties differently.
Most Green parties in Western Europe evolved 15-20 years ago. Many have now matured into political forces of considerable strength in their countries. Others have had more difficulties to establish themselves and remain small, often as a result of a disadvantageous electoral system. Some – such as Die Grünen in Germany and Swedish Miljöpartiet – have had a turbulent development, being voted out of parliament, re-organizing and then making their way back into their national parliaments.
The rise of the Greens in the post-communist Eastern and Central Europe has been more recent. At the time of the fall of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Greens emerged in key leadership positions of many new democracies. Most Green parties in these countries, however, were not able to develop widespread support and maintain their influence in the years that followed. The most notable exception to this is Georgia, where the Greens participate in government and have an Environment Minister. A Green is Speaker of the Parliament.
Most successful by any standards have been the German Greens. Die Grünen have 49 MPs and are the third political force in the country. Miljöpartiet of Sweden reached more than 17% in the 1995 elections to the European Parliament, the highest figure ever for a national Green Party. In Finland and Italy, the Greens take part in the national governments and in both countries they hold the posts of Ministers for Environment.
The decision-making bodies of the Federation are the Committee, which is the executive board of the Federation, the Council which is composed of the delegates of the Member parties; and the Congress which meets every three years to discuss and adopt the policies of the Federation.
Greens in the Parliaments of Europe
In 1979 the Swiss Green party was the first to have a Green elected to a national parliament in Europe. Little by little, Greens started being represented in the parliaments of Austria, Belgium, Finland, Georgia, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia. Altogether, the national Green parliamentarians and Green Members of the European Parliament number over 300.
In 1994-1999 there were 27 Members of the European Parliament. The Green Group in the European Parliament is part of the Federation. The co-operation between the Federation and the Group is very close, particularly on matters of major political significance. The Green Group in the European Parliament is, according to article 6 of the Statutes, the exclusive partner of the Federation in the European Parliament.
Strategic Priorities for the Federation
The Green East-West Dialogue and Mediterranean issues remain in focus. The initiatives for Green cooperation on the Baltic Sea will be followed up by concrete cooperation. Support for small Green parties will be one of the top priorities of the Federation in an effort to strengthen the Green movement in Europe and prepare for the European elections in 1999. Globally, the Federation will concentrate on North-South issues in cooperation with Greens in those countries.
Much still needs to be done to increase Federation efficiency. new strategies for media, electronic communication and information etc will save time and enhance our performance. The UPDATE newsletter will be substantially developed into a more useful, flexible and creative tool for the member parties.
A World-Wide Green Movement
The Greens first emerged as a significant political force in Europe. However, Green parties have played an important role and continue to gain strength elsewhere. Most recently, the Taiwanese Greens made a significant contribution to the Green movement in Asia by winning the continents first Green national parliamentary seat.
In Australia, the Greens have been represented in the national parliament for years, as well as in several state parliaments. Since the 1996 elections in Tasmania, the Greens enjoy a balance of power position in the state parliament.
In the US presidential campaign for November 1996, the candidacy of Ralph Nader for the Greens has put Greens on the political map. In Africa, there are Greens in a number of West African states, ministers in Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau.
Closer links with Non-European Greens are forged through expanded cooperation through electronic communication. The Federation will assume particular responsibility to help develop these contacts.
More on the European Federation of Green Parties (EFGP) website: http://www.europeangreens.org/info/history.html