Green Parties are one of the symbols of changing political discourse and problems in the post-war era. They are active as political parties since the 1980s. Green Parties are one of the most effective parties in terms of being the voice of the younger generations. In order to understand this movement, we have to look at the terms on the backstage. This paper is an overview history of the European Green Parties. First, it is trying to seek the answer of the ‘What is Green Politics?’ question then explain about the ‘Green Foreign Policy’ term with the scope of various treaties held in the past and the perspective of international law. Lastly explains the history of the Green Party in Europe from the 1970s to the present.
Key Words: Green Party, New Left, Environmentalism, Soft politics, Green ideas
Green discourse at politics gained momentum after the last decade of the 20th century. Harsh industrial degradation on nature, increasing temperature of the world, extinction of spices paved the way for strong environmentalist movements. Earth Day was one of the earliest significant examples of this movement. Earth Day gave a voice to emerging public consciousness about the state of our planet. That kind of protest certainly increased awareness among the people about the importance of the topic. Besides the public demonstrations also governments realized that the ecological crisis is a problem that growing day by day. Thus governments also took some actions in terms of international conventions such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In order to carry pro-ecological and pro-green ideas to the national assemblies some of those ecological movements are involved in the political parties. The first Green Party in the world was founded in 1972 in Australia. Other parties followed quickly. In 1973 PEOPLE Party in the UK and other green parties showed up in different European countries. In the 1970s West Germany very different movements highlighted that their protest against existing parties and their understanding of ecology as a new social united paradigm. Thus Germany’s green party was established with those promises in 1980. With this claim, the early Greens entered the Bundestag for the first time in 1983. From a historical perspective, political discussions were mostly around the CDU/CSU, SPD, and FDP. Most of the media elite were also supported by politicians. Under these circumstances, it was really hard for the greens to increase their voice in German public opinion. At the first green parties in many countries were alienated from politics. In 1984 one brochure of CDU:
‘Their difference to the basic consensus of the Federal Republic of Germany guaranteed them attention and success, but also marked them as potentially dangerous and incapable of forming a coalition.’
As we can see from the establishment story of the German Greens we can clearly say that the new voice of the traditional political system was not welcomed. Most of the Green parties struggled to increase their voices in their country’s public opinion. In Western Democracies labeling Green Parties as a Communist or Socialist was also popular. But before the explain all those processes since the 1970s to today’s Green movement first we have to explain the term of Green Politics.
1. What is Green Politics?
Key reference points for Green thinking include the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the writings of the Reverend Martin Luther King, the ecological knowledge of Native American and indigenous communities, and the struggles of women’s, human rights, peace, and environmental movements the world over. The rise of Green parties is attributed to the growing popularity of postmaterialist values and concerns with the quality of life and close links to the new social movements of the 1960s and 1970s around peace and feminism. This was reflected in the ‘new politics’ grounded in ecology, concern for the developing world, unilateral disarmament, and direct democracy in all areas of society. Green parties have tended to thrive in countries with advanced welfare states, strong traditions of labor corporatism, and regular participation of left-wing parties in government. It is an ecological, holistic, and feminist movement embeddedness of individuals and societies in the cyclical processes of nature. It addresses the unjust and destructive dynamics of patriarchy. It calls for social responsibility and a sound, sustainable economic system, one that is ecological, decentralized, equitable, and comprised of flexible institutions, one in which people have significant control over their lives. In advocating a cooperative world order, Green politics rejects all forms of exploitation – of nature, individuals, social groups, and countries. Green Politics clearly decentre the human beings to refuse to believe that the World was made for human beings. From the Green point of view capitalism and communism, both are equally problematic because of their commitment to industrial growth. Green thinking as explained here was completely new in consuetudinary politics. Strong anti-militarism and being against mass industralization made the Green idea the main target of the critics. The mostly criticizing part of that was about their plans for an economic, political, and regional crisis in World. They were giving most of their tendencies to the social and ecological problems thus people question their trustability in so-called hard politics issues such as economics, military, and foreign policy.
1.1 Green Foreign Policy
The environmental concerns have not only moved onto the radar of the young people and climate activists. This problem also became a dominant force in terms of international politics. There is an option for this called greening of foreign policy it is an option called free-market environmentalism. Those adopting this approach to environmental issues recognize that the best way to improve the international environment is to act out the saying of ‘think globally, act locally’. Because different parts of the World have different regional problems and those require different solutions to environmental problems. Problems which are cross the national borders of countries became an international issue according to free-market environmentalism. Free market environmentalism is a sort of green foreign policy type which is accepted by most of the states. Since the 70’s we showed that the free-market environmentalism is insufficient alone. Many ecological crises happened and this problem of the World grown day by day. But also it is helped to adding environmental concerns into international trade deals and cooperations. For example, GATT, which was signed in 1984, did not mention the environment, but the WTO, which was created out of the 1994 Uruguay GATT meetings, includes references to both sustainable development and the need to protect and preserve the environment. Besides that NAFTA also incorporates environmentally popular causes. It is requiring signatory countries to meet certain automobile emission standards. 104th article of the NAFTA agreement determines the environmental limitations and rules of the treaty. International law was also changed along with the environmentalist movements. Environmental groups are lobbying to get certain environmental considerations treated as human rights and ultimately as part of the customary international law. In 1994, a formal campaign to create a document known as the Earth Charter. The campaign received support from the government of the Netherlands. The Earth Charter’s website clarifies the goal of the Project: ‘The Earth Charter will be designed as a soft law document. It is, however, important to remember that some documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those documents are mostly accepted as soft law tools but over the years those papers gain a binding force among the states who are endorsed them. In terms of politics mainly Green Parties undertake as a duty.
2. How Green Parties Established in Europe
The new left parties mostly emerged in the advanced capitalist countries of Europe. The emerging new leftist parties in the developed capitalist countries such as Scandinavian countries, France, and the Netherlands over time, have extended their extensions like Green parties. Thus they spread to Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, and West Germany. New actors of the left affected the voting behavior of the citizens they made visible to reestablishments inside the left. The biggest success of those parties is that they excluded communist parties from the system –especially in Scandinavia-. In the 1970s Green Parties put issues such as ecology, energy, feminism, peace, and nuclear disarmament among the priority agenda topics of politics. But in the 1980s those parties have been discredited because of the increasing attacks on welfare states and labor rights in Europe.
After the 1968 protests rivalry inside the left also changed. Besides the worker protesters students also were in the streets for freedom of expression and freedom of choice. With 1968 It is understood that the capitalist system also suppresses the opposition and free debate. The post-war generation that participated in the protests, by criticizing almost everything distorted the traditional settings of politics. This new generation also affected the traditional left political understanding. Bureaucratic Stalinist and socialism were also criticized by this post-war generation this paved way for the new left parties.
In Europe besides the traditional communist idea, terms such as ‘feminism, environmentalism, and pacifism’ also entered the left political discourse. Those terms are accepted as individual resistance towards the domination of capitalism. Generally, the left did not neglect to open up to new political areas brought with it in 1968 and concentrated on developing strong relations, especially with social movements. Ecological, feminist, peace-based, and anti-racist movements are among the important civil commotions that make up the new left and have the capacity to mobilize large masses in the societies where they exist. The alliance between those civil commotions and left structures paved the way for democratization in the inside functions of the left parties. In the 1980s traditionalist, old communist parties were not enough to answer all demands of the left. New ideas that are accumulating since the 1968 strikes were demanding environmentalism, gender equality, and more individual rights. The traditional left was not enough to satisfy all those demands this paved way to the transition of the traditional left parties in Europe. Besides, chronic electoral defeats have raised concerns in the European left and brought up the search for alternatives. While the vast majority of non-communist left parties voiced traditional social democratic demands, they also supported currents such as feminism, environmentalism, and pacifism in view of the complex forms of domination of capitalism. After the breakdown of the Berlin Wall left in Europe increased it is a transition to new left Green parties. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the European left abandoned its ideological dogmas, while successfully embracing new areas of politics (such as feminism, ecology, and anti-war). During the 1990s the vast majority of the left parties instead of being opposition towards the European Union only criticized few policies of the European Union and they adopted soft European skepticism. But Green parties were not European skeptic as the old traditional left parties. In the 1990s, Green parties entered a process of transformation that reflects the spirit of the period, revising their traditional view, especially against capitalism and power issues. Two groups, named “Realos” and “Fundisler”, competed in the discussions within the parties. While the Realos advocated a step back in the critique of capitalism and the acceptance of the coalition partnership proposal voiced by the social democratic parties; Fundisler emphasized that Green parties should remain loyal to their radical origins and not enter coalitions. The conflict between the two ended with the victory of the Realos. Later, the Greens softened their ideology and significantly lowered the tone of their criticism of capitalism and liberal democracy.
In the 1980s Germany, the SPD adopted the neoliberal agenda and failed to respond to new social demands, thus the German party system hosted a new left-wing actor. The name of this political actor, founded in 1980, is the Green Party. The policies put forward by the Greens mainly stem from the radical criticism of the capitalist system. According to the German Greens, in order to end the negative course of the World, production should be reorganized by taking environmental concerns into account, the economic growth policies that damage nature should be abandoned and the damage caused by industrialization policies should be eliminated as soon as possible. Greens have been successful by realizing the potential of environmentalism, which is one of the main policy areas that emerged after the increase in welfare in Western Europe. The Greens also raised the problem of representation of parliamentary democracy. The Greens highlighted the notion of “active citizen” to encourage participation in political decisions. It is possible to define the Greens as a social protest movement that struggles against representative democracy and the colonial relationship established by capitalism with nature. The electoral base of the Greens was mostly the post-war era generations who grow up with the welfare, peace, and security after the war. The same year the Green Party became one of the central opposition parties in West Germany. Thus more radical left fractions and political parties also found the opportunity to join Greens and express themselves. Greens. Aiming to respond predominantly to the ecology and representation crises of neoliberalism and at the same time drawing a political profile loyal to the principle of social justice, the Greens were particularly influential on the white-collar voters of the SPD.
When we came to the 2000s popularity of the Green Parties also continued increasing. The increasing number of migrants in West Europe, serious signals of climate change also gave new policymaking areas for the Greens as well.
Currently, Green Parties’ popularity increasing day by day mostly among the younger generations so-called ‘generation Z’. In the 2019s European Parliament elections, the Green party got 74 seats in European Parliament besides that currently Green party is the fourth biggest party in the German Parliament. Green parties growing popularity put them easily on the target side of the other parties. Currently mostly criticized issues about the Green parties are Economy policies, military policies, usage of hard power in terms of foreign policy. According to many people, Green’s policy discourse is still stuck in the boundaries of soft politics. Most of the older generations’ biggest concern about the Green parties is also this. Not having concrete solution proposals towards the hard political issues, world crises. At the same time distinguish criteria of the hard and soft politics also changed with the 21st century. The green movement also changed this definition. Climate crises of our planet on way to getting into the hard policy agenda of many states. Greta Thunberg’s school strike movement, climate movements pushed the governments the putting climate crises into the hard policy agenda. Besides that Green parties still has really limited impacts in terms of politics. They are only in few parliaments of the world. In order to consolidate green ideas in the world, current Green parties have to spread their political culture to neighbor countries such as to Eastern Europe, the Balkans, etc. Green Parties also have to be inclusive in all fields of politics, thus they can spread environmentalism, gender equality, and other Green Ideas to the rest of the world.
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