- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Germany's environmentally minded Greens party proposed yesterday to identify itself as a "party of the left center," dropping its "party of protest" label in hopes of boosting its popularity ahead of elections next year.
The change was part of a broad shift toward the center spelled out in a draft of the political program on which it will run.
The Greens, the junior partner in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's governing coalition, are slumping in the polls and at risk of falling below the 5 percent of the vote required to remain in parliament.
"We began as an 'anti-party party' and in the meantime have become a reform party," Greens co-leader Claudia Roth explained at a news conference.
Germany's Greens are the first radical environmental party to become part of a Western European government, but they have found themselves forced to moderate their policies while in office.
"In this program you will not find the alarmism and immediatism of the old Greens' program," party leader Fritz Kuhn said yesterday, according to the conservative newspaper Die Welt.
"We have accepted that small steps are sometimes all that is possible," added Mrs. Roth.
Other party leaders were quoted as calling the new policy "a realistic approach, an ecological approach, an approach of the left center."
Although Mrs. Roth insisted that the program was not designed simply to win votes, the Social Democrats are likely to welcome the shift to the center by their junior coalition partner.
Mr. Schroeder has said he is willing to remain in coalition with the Greens after the 2002 election, provided they make it into parliament.
Despite the widespread belief he is considering a partnership with the liberal Free Democrats, who had been in past governments of both the right and left, the present arrangement suits him well.
Losing the Greens as a coalition partner would mean losing a very tame partner and the loss of Germany's most popular Cabinet minister, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of the Greens.
The draft platform brings Greens party policies more closely into harmony with those of Mr. Schroeder.
The Greens have now abandoned their demand for a shutdown of all atomic energy plants, a policy that always troubled Mr. Schroeder because of the negative impact it would have on the economy.
The Greens also abandoned their blanket opposition to all use of military force — a principle already thrown overboard by Mr. Fischer, who angered his party's left wing by supporting NATO intervention in the Balkans.
"We know that force cannot always be avoided," said party official Reinhard Buetikofer.
The draft program also emphasizes the importance of U.S.-German relations: "Germany's security and stability are essentially based on close and good relations to the United States."
However, an intraparty quarrel about how best to use the German army has not yet been settled.
The left wing would like to require that any foreign deployment be approved by a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Mr. Fischer prefers to keep the present system requiring only a simple majority.
A decision will probably be reached in November, when the draft program is put to a vote at a party convention.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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