Between 1998 and 2005, German Greens were well-known for participating in a national coalition government with the Social Democratic Party, called ìRed-Greenî after each partyís official colors.
But with the decline of the Social Democrats across Germany, the opportunity for the Greens to explore coalitions with other parties has grown. There is now aìBlack-Greenî government in Frankfurt, where Greens received 15.3% in March local elections. As a result, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and Greens are now in a ruling coalition for 2006-2011 in Frankfurt.
Frankfurt am Main, as it is officially called in Germany, is the fifth-largest city in Germany and is the seat of the European Central Bank, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and is the largest financial center in continental Europe. Although Frankfurt is not the first municipality in which the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Greens have formed a coalition (they are already governing in Cologne, in other cities in North Rhine-Westphalia and in KasselÛnever); it is perhaps the most significant because of the cityís status and its connections to higher levels of government.
After the election the party assigned seven members to negotiate a coalition agreement with the CDU. They emerged with a common platform that included Greensí emphasis on improved rights for immigrants, more funding for local schools and improved public transit. In May, the 145 Greens attending a general membership meeting voted by over 80% to approve the agreement and accept the Black-Green government. However, to achieve the accord, Greens had to swallow what many felt was a bitter pill ó agreeing not to further oppose the long controversial building of the Riederwald tunnel, which connects two motorways east of the city. Tunnel opponents protested the Greens membership meeting, accompanied by drums and whistles.
According to incoming Frankfurt Green city councillor in charge of transportation, Lutz Sikorski, the Greens could not prevent the building of the tunnel as it was too far along to be stopped. Therefore the party agreed to stop opposing it in exchange for concessions on other points. Local party leader Jutta Ebeling, who will head the city alongside CDU Mayor Petra Roth, also seemed to accept this compromise in order to affect policy. ìA coalition with the CDU would be a venture that one must accept, especially at the local level … Otherwise one would be continuously in opposition,î she said. How Frankfurtís Black-Green experiment turns out is unknown, but could tell much about the possibilities of such cooperation on higher levels in the future.
For more information: www.gruene-frankfurt.de
Video: Interview with Jutta Ebeling, Frankfurt Green Vice-Mayor (in English)