The Guardian view on Germany’s Greens: opportunity knocks | Editorial

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Election year could deliver the best result in the party’s 40-year history, and send a message on climate targets from Europe’s most powerful state

Pre-pandemic, Europe’s green parties were on a roll. In France last summer, supporters hailed a “green wave” after regional polls handed the Europe Ecology party control of showcase cities such as Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux. Austria’s Greens are the surprise junior partners in a conservative-led coalition government, delivering pioneering measures to curtail short-haul air travel. In the 27 EU member states, five governments now have Green members sitting at the cabinet table.

If ambitious net zero targets are to amount to more than earnest virtue signalling, this infiltration of the political mainstream is both overdue and necessary. And now comes the biggest test – and the greatest opportunity – of all. Consistently running a comfortable second in the polls to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and already governing in coalition in 11 states, Germany’s Greens are well-placed to form part of the country’s first “black-green” coalition after September’s federal elections. The CDU’s recent endorsement of the centrist Armin Laschet as its new leader suggests it sees such an alliance as a likely route to staying in power, as Ms Merkel steps down after 16 years in office. The Greens will decide this spring which of its two co-leaders should be its candidate for the top job: the media-savvy and charismatic Annalena Baerbock, or the equally ambitious moderniser Robert Habeck, talked up in some quarters as Germany’s Emmanuel Macron.

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