At today's elections in Germany's smallest state, Bremen, the governing grand coalition has suffered marked losses, whilst the Green Party has increased its share of the vote to over 16%. It is likely that Bremen's Social Democrats will choose to govern in a coalition with the Green party henceforth - even though a grand coalition would continue to have a large majority and a red-green coalition would have been possible even in the last Parliament.
For those, admittedly not many, who are nostalgic for the seven years in which Gerhard Schroeder was Germany's Chancellor this is important news: the red-green model had become completely wiped out in Germany, not only on the national but also on the state level.
A little bit of hope, however, is also restored to others, who perhaps were never entirely enthusiastic about the Schroeder government, and yet hope that Germany's political future lies with its moderate left of centre forces. For socially liberal social democrats the Green Party is the natural coalition partner because it provides a corrective for socially authoritarian and populist forces on the left, such as those trumpeted by Oskar Lafontaine in Germany, some Old Labourites and, in part, Royal in France.
It was with the Red-Green coalition of 1998 that the social changes initiated by the 1968 generation found visible representation in the country's political leadership. These accomplishments have now, by and large, penetrated into the political consensus. But many battles for social advances remain to be fought. These need a political home, which for progressive left-wingers in Germany is likely to remain, to a great part, somewhere between the Social Democratic and the Green Party.
For this reason, today's election result in the tiny state of Bremen is important, even though it is a very long road indeed to the next Red-Green coalition on the national level - and, alas, possibly an even longer road to a national Red-Green coalition that can live up to the hopes initially invested in the 1998 Schroeder government.