Greens Crash Out of Belgian Government

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 19, 2003 (ENS) - Four years after being catapulted into Belgium's coalition government in the wake of toxic food contamination and other scandals, the Greens were yesterday ejected again, losing control of the country's environment ministry. The election marks the environmentalist party's worst reverse in Europe for many years.

Under Belgian's linguistically divided system, the Flemish speaking Agalev Party lost all nine of its seats on a share of the vote down from seven percent to 2.5 percent. Its French speaking counterpart, Ecolo, saw its share of the vote fall from 7.3 percent to three percent, cutting its tally of seats from 11 to just four.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt's Liberals appear set to continue in power in coalition with the Socialists, both parties having made gains at the polls.


Former Belgian Environment Minister Olivier Deleuze quit the government two weeks ago. (Photo courtesy OECD)
A big fall in support for the Greens was predicted in the run up to the elections, especially after Environment Minister Olivier Deleuze and his Ecolo colleague and Transport Minister Isabelle Durant both resigned earlier this month in a fight over night flights to Brussels airport, mainly affecting the French speaking area of Belgium.

The Greens previously courted controversy by their opposition to tobacco advertising, which led to cancellation of the Belgian leg of Grand Prix motor racing.

Deleuze's predecessor as environment minister, Magda Aelvoet, also walked out of the government last summer in protest at arms sales to Nepal. The Green minister's resignation followed approval by Prime Minister Verhofstadt and Foreign Minister Louis Michel of a Belgian shipment of machine guns to Nepal, where a civil war is raging.


Former Belgian Transport Minister Isabelle Durant left the Belgian government with Deleuze. (Photo courtesy IRU)
Belgian Ecolo MEP Pierre Jonckheer accepted that both Green parties had suffered a credibility gap with voters, but he said this gap was unrelated to environmental policymaking. The result did not necessarily bode ill for next year's European elections, he claimed.

Another European Green Party official also denied the result showed any meltdown of the party across Europe.

Germany is now the only European Union country with Greens in power nationally in a so-called Red/Green coalition with the Social Democrats led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Having first taken office in 1998, the German Green Party managed to increase its share of the vote by two percentage points to 8.6 percent last September.

Since 1998 Juergen Trittin has served as Germany's federal minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety, and he has been re-appointed until 2006. Under Trittin's direction, Germany has decided to phase out nuclear power and replace it with power generated by the wind and other renewable sources.

Until last June, Greens controlled the environment ministries of Finland and France.

Until May 2000 the Green Party also filled the position of environment minister in Italy.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}