The Greens' success in German elections is only the latest bloom of a movement that is now part of the governments of Finland, Italy and France and holds a key role in Sweden.
After grabbing international attention in the early 1980s when the intense, charismatic Petra Kelly led the party to prominence in Germany, the Greens faded, winning seats in European parliaments but remaining marginal.But in the latter half of the 1990s, the Greens joined governing coalitions in Finland, Italy and France and now have been invited to join Germany's Social Democrats in ruling the most powerful nation in the European Union.
"There is a fresh wind of reform in Europe. The age of conservative and neoliberal governments in the EU has definitely come to an end," proclaimed Magda Aelvoet of Belgium, president of the Green Group in the European Parliament.
The Greens have used their rising power to considerable effect on their core environmental issues. In Italy, a Greens environment minister has been influential in pushing through legislation increasing the number of national parks, imposing stricter criteria for sewage treatment and forcing mo-ped manufacturers to build less-polluting models.
France's Environment Minister Dominique Voynet organized last week's "Day Without Cars," where streets were blocked to motor vehicles in 35 cities and pushed through legislation letting only new cars with catalytic converters drive in Paris during high-pollution days.
But it is in Sweden where the party may face its first serious test on handling issues other than the environment.
Because of a weak showing by the governing Social Democrats in this month's national elections, the Greens ended up being key to the party retaining power. The Social Democrats declined to invite the Greens into a coalition but must rely on their support to have a majority in parliament.