German student activist and politician, deputy mayor of Frankfurt from 1989 and member of the European Parliament from 1994. His 22nd March Movement was prominent amongst the leftist movements that took part in the students' and workers' demonstrations in France in May 1968. Expelled from France on the orders of the interior minister, Cohn-Bendit re-emerged in the 1980s as an environmentalist activist. In 1984 the anarchist-oriented ‘Sponti’ movement with which he was associated accepted parliamentary democracy and he joined the German Green Party.
He ran an alternative bookshop in Frankfurt, where he became deputy mayor in 1989, and, in 1994, was elected to the European Parliament. For the 1999 European elections, he led the French Green Party (Les Verts) list, which attracted 9.7% of the vote, and in 2002 he became president of the Green parliamentary group in the European Parliament. In 2004, he successfully contested the European elections with the German Green Party. He has disregarded conventional left and right political positions, supporting, on the one hand, freer immigration, legalization of soft drugs, and ending nuclear power, and, on the other, free-market economic policies and military interventions in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Of German nationality, although born in Montauben, France, Cohn-Bendit was, in 1968, a sociology student at Nanterre. Sharply critical of the French Communist Party (PCF) as a visionless bureaucracy, he was the target of a xenophobic personal attack in its daily paper, L'Humanité. This rebounded on the PCF, with street demonstrations chanting ‘We are all German Jews’. Cohn-Bendit authored Links radicalismus – Gewalter gegen die Krankheit des Communismus/Obsolete Communism – the Left-Wing Alternative (1968).