Greens in Belgium, Luxembourg and in Bavaria and Hesse in Germany have recently experienced huge gains in electoral support, in what is being described as a ‘Green Wave’. People have been turning to the Greens as the most competent party to offer real solutions to today’s most pressing problems. But these successes did not come out of the blue. Instead, they have their roots in a political family whose growing confidence and maturity is now unmistakable.
This is most apparent in Germany, where voters turned out en-masse to place their trust in Green leadership, first in Bavaria, then in Hesse, to catapult the Greens into becoming the second biggest political force ahead of the traditional German Social Democratic Party, the SPD.
Greens are now in government in nine out of the 16 German states, further strengthening their position as a major player in shaping the country’s political scene. The Greens in both Bavaria and Hesse have stood firm in their position to reject outright the extreme positions of the far right and instead campaigned on a more compassionate platform. They also proved to be the most credible party on education and housing, which were top concerns among Germans in both state elections.
In Belgium, Green parties also registered unprecedented success in local elections. The Flemish Groen party now has 500 municipal councilors, a massive increase of 75 per cent. The French-speaking Ecolo party also saw a huge increase in its support, especially in Brussels, where 23 per cent of the 695 seats are now in the hands of Green councillors.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Luxembourg, Green politicians doubled their electoral support after five years serving in a coalition government and look set to play an active role as part of the newly-elected government.
The Green Wave is also impacting towns and cities in other parts of Europe. Amsterdam recently elected its first female mayor – and Green politician – Femke Halsema. The Dutch Green party GroenLinks is now in government in nine out of the 10 biggest cities in the Netherlands. Grenoble and Innsbruck also have sitting Green mayors and other Greens are in government in a host of German and Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.
Greens have consistently proved their relevance at a local, national and EU level – and people are starting to take notice. The freak weather events and extreme temperatures registered across Europe this summer, as well as the worrying IPCC special report on the effects of 1.5 degrees of global warming, have underlined the dangers of leaving climate change unaddressed.
But the Green Wave cannot only be attributed to these concerns. People are starting to realize that the status quo is no longer sustainable and that the Greens are the only party with the vision and political maturity to bring about significant and hopeful change on both a local and European level.
Since 2009, Monica Frassoni has been co-chair of the European Green Party, a federation of national green parties across Europe. She is also President of the European Alliance to Save Energy (EUASE). @monicafrassoni