Founded in 1981 as Agalev, the party has maintained good relations with its Francophone sister party, Ecolo. The name "Agalev" is short for "Anders GAan LEVen" ("going to live differently"). It was the result of a grassroots progressive environmental movement initiated by progressive Catholics, alternative socialists and environmentalists. The party was part of Guy Verhofstadt's first coalition (1999-2003), but lost all its seats in the federal parliament mainly to SP.a-Spirit cartel in the May 18, 2003, elections.
In June 2003, the party gave permission to local divisions to form cartels with other parties, more specifically SP.A, which had already formed a cartel with the social liberal Spirit. On November 14, 2003, Vera Dua replaced Dirk Holemans as the party president, a post which Agalev until then called "political secretary". By then Agalev was fighting for its life as a independent Flemish progressive green party.
During a party congress, Agalev's name was changed to Groen! (Green!). Though Agalev-Limburg voted in favor of a cartel with the socialist SP.A party, the party congress rejected this option. Groen! decided to go to the regional and European elections as an independent party. Groen! held its ground in both elections by regaining votes from the SP.a-Spirit cartel and gained seats in the Flemish parliament. Citing its still electoral risky position as the main reason, Groen! ruled out any participation in a new Flemish government.
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