The political party The Greens (Die Grünen) was founded in 1979 to give political and parliamentary representation to the many environmental groups and peace activists in the country. In 1982, the conservative factions of the Greens broke away to form the Ecological Democratic Party (ödp). Many of those who left the party shared similar values but did not identify with the forms of protest that Green party members took part in, such as civil disobedience which sometimes led to clashes with police at demonstrations, such as on nuclear energy.
After some success at state-level elections, the party won 27 seats with 5.7% of the vote in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, in the 1983 federal election. The newly-formed party was able to draw on the popular movement opposing the deployment of cruise missiles on West German soil by NATO and the US to recruit support. Partly due to the impact of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and to growing awareness of the threat of air pollution, the Greens increased their share of the vote to 8.3% in the 1987 federal election. Around this time, Joschka Fischer emerged as the unofficial leader of the party, a position he retained until 2005.
After the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, the Greens became more radicalised and resisted compromise on the nuclear issue. During the 1990s, a re-orientation towards a moderate program occurred, with concern about Global warming and ozone depletion taking a more prominent role. During the federal red-green government (1998–2005) many people became disappointed with what they saw as excessive compromise on key Greens policies.
In the 1990 federal elections, taking place post-reunified Germany, the Greens in the West did not pass the 5% limit required to win seats in the Bundestag. In 1993 the Green Party became unified with Alliance '90, a heterogenous grouping of civil rights activists, a move which helped to boost their share of the vote. At the 1994 federal election, the merged party returned to the Bundestag when the Greens received 7.3% of the vote nationwide.
In the 1998 federal election, the Greens joined the federal government for the first time in 'Red-Green' coalition government with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Joschka Fischer became Vice-Chancellor of Germany and foreign minister in the new government.
Almost immediately the party was plunged into a crisis by the question of German participation in the NATO actions in Kosovo. Numerous anti-war party members resigned their party membership when the first post-war deployment of German troops in a military conflict abroad occurred under a Red-Green government, a decision for which the party would suffer in subsequent elections.
Despite the crises of the preceding electoral period, in the 2002 federal election, the Greens increased their vote share to 8.6%. The Red-Green coalition government in the Bundestag and was renewed, with Joschka Fischer as foreign minister, Renate Künast as minister for consumer protection, nutrition and agriculture, and Jürgen Trittin as minister for the environment.
In the 2005 federal election the party achieved 8.1% of the vote and 51 seats. However, due to larger losses of the SPD, the previous coalition no longer had a majority in the Bundestag. For almost two years after the federal elections in 2005, the Greens were not part of any government at the state or federal level.
In June 2007, the Greens in Bremen entered into a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) following the 2007 Bremen state election. In April 2008, following the 2008 Hamburg state election, the Green-Alternative List (GAL) in Hamburg entered into a coalition with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the first such state-level coalition in Germany.
The National Executive (Bundesvorstand) which represents the Party, is composed of 6 individuals, including two co-presidents, currently Claudia Roth and Cem Özdemir. The members of the Executive are elected by the National Assembly for a term of two years. Members of parliament may be elected for two of the six seats of the party executive, as long as they are not ministers or caucus leaders.
The National Assembly (Bundesversammlung) is the supreme body which decides on the programme, statute, fees, arbitration rules, and the dissolution or merger with other parties. The Assembly is composed of 820 delegates, of which about 110 delegates places are reserved for representatives of associations in East Germany. Each district is attributed a number of delegates in proportion to its size (minimum 1). The election of delegates is at the general meetings of the district organizations. In the selection of delegates to district organizations are encouraged by statute to ensure 50-50 male-female parity. The Conference in which delegates of the Assembly meet happens at least once a year.
The Greens Party Council (Parteirat) is the advisory body of the party and is composed of 16 top politicians and advisors. The Council advises the national executive, coordinates work between the various bodies of the party, and develops and plans joint initiatives. It usually meets in the meeting weeks of the German Parliament and works on a voluntary basis. Of the 16 members, 13 are elected by delegates of the National Assembly.
Other bodies associated with the party include the Heinrich Böll Foundation. It acts independently and works to seek strategic partnerships with others who share their values. The party's youth wing the Green Youth (Grüne Jugend) was founded in 1994. The National Women's Council (Bundesfrauenrat) coordinates the women's political work among the committees of the Party, the groups and the national associations of the Green movement.
German Greens in the European Parliament
In the 2009 European Elections the German Greens achieved 12.1% of the vote, its best ever result in these elections, gaining them an extra seat. In the European Parliament's Greens-EFA Group they are currently represented by 14 MEPs, including Rebecca Harms who is currently co-president of the group, sharing the position with Daniel Cohn-Bendit.