Germany’s second-largest opposition party said on Friday it is commissioning a study to investigate the influence of pedophiles in the group’s founding years.
The study aims to find out “to what extent groups or individuals who sought exemption from punishment for sexual acts of adults with children” were active within the party, the center-left, environmentalist Greens said.
Greens General Secretary Steffi Lemke said the group now unequivocally rejects sex with children as “unacceptable and wrong” and regrets it provided “room for debate” on the issue in the past.
The Greens came under fire in recent weeks amid allegations the party and some of its leaders tolerated or promoted pedophilia in its politically more radical years after its foundation in 1980.
The investigation by the department of democracy studies at Goettingen University will be financed by the party, but the researchers will be independent, get full access to party archives and will be able to publish their findings without limitations, Lemke said in a statement.
The anti-nuclear, pro-environment party traces its history back to the peace movements opposing the Vietnam War and the arms race in then-Cold War Europe. It put the fight for a more open, less conservative society on its banner and campaigned for high gas prices and tough environmental protection rules.
However, 30 years in, the party has nuanced its more radical demands and is currently polling third before September’s national elections. The Greens hope to unseat conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition by teaming up with the country’s main opposition party, the center-left Social Democrats. Merkel’s party is currently leading the polls, but its coalition’s majority in some polls is on a razor’s edge.
The allegations against the Greens came back to light earlier this year, when a judge of Germany’s top court canceled a speech honoring the party’s leading member of the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, because of the lawmaker’s ambiguous statements on sexual contacts with children in the past. Cohn-Bendit, a dual German-French national who played a central role in the 1968 protest movement in both countries, has strongly rejected the allegations.
He said he regrets his ambiguous statements, but insisted they were merely meant as provocations as part of the Greens’ struggle to achieve a more open approach to sexuality in society.
“The right and important advocacy for equal treatment of homosexuality and the advocacy against the outdated, repressive moral attitude on sexuality are a big merit of the Green Party in Germany,” Lemke said.
“But this merit and the debates on it are neither the cause nor can they be the reasoning for unacceptable demands to legalize pedophilia that some were able to bring forward,” she added.
The Greens have been the junior partner in a national center-left coalition that was in power from 1998 to 2005.