German Parliament Approves Greek Bailout Deal

German Parliament Approves Greek Bailout Deal

BERLIN — Germany’s Parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bailout of 86 billion euros, or $95 billion, for Greece, with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister failing to curb a revolt among their own conservative lawmakers who opposed more help for the heavily indebted government in Athens.

After just over two hours of debate, the 584 lawmakers at a special session of Parliament voted 453 to 113 for the package, with 18 abstentions. (Parliament officials had initially reported 454 votes in favor, and a total of 585 lawmakers present.)

Even taking into account that the session interrupted the summer recess, the number of lawmakers in the 631-seat legislature who stayed away, 47, was remarkably high, suggesting that at least some conservatives who opposed the package avoided the vote.

Last month, 60 of the 311 conservative lawmakers voted against even opening talks on what would be the third bailout for Greece since 2010, and five other conservatives abstained, a result that was seen as a political blow for the highly popular chancellor.

On Wednesday, 63 conservatives voted against the new bailout deal, and three others abstained. The result suggested that Ms. Merkel and her even more popular finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, would find it hard to get more help for Greece through Parliament.

In an unusual move, Ms. Merkel did not lay out the government’s case before the German vote, giving that task to Mr. Schäuble, who last month publicly questioned whether Greece should stay in the 19-member eurozone.

He has strong standing among conservatives, having served in Parliament since 1972, and held almost every senior post in the German government except that of chancellor.

On Wednesday, Mr. Schäuble acknowledged his own doubts about a new program for Greece. But he said that the government in Athens had proved that it was serious about enacting overhauls, meaning that it was worth offering further assistance and proving that Europe could stick together.

“Of course, after the experience of the past months and years, there is no guarantee that everything will work, and doubts are always allowed,” Mr. Schäuble told his fellow lawmakers. “But in view of the fact that the Greek Parliament has already passed a large part of the measures, it would be irresponsible not to use the opportunity now for a new start in Greece.”

“For many, many reasons, we need a strong Europe capable of action,” Mr. Schäuble added.

“I have fought for these decisions” to help Greece, he said, “and I must ask you to approve the proposal of the government.”

Another leading conservative lawmaker, Volker Kauder, argued that European solidarity was needed on Greece, in part because Europe faces an even bigger challenge with the rising number of refugees coming from war-torn regions in the Middle East and Africa.

“Where we have found togetherness for Greece, that is the starting point to find togetherness on the refugees,” said Mr. Kauder, who had come under fire over the past 10 days after he appeared to threaten conservative lawmakers who opposed the Greek bailout with loss of parliamentary positions or influence.

The aid package is subject to the approval of eurozone finance ministers, acting as members of the board of governors of the European Stability Mechanism, the agency that would disburse the money.

If, as expected, the ministers approve the package at a meeting Wednesday evening, Greece could have the money in time to pay back by Thursday the €3.2 billion it owes on bonds held by the European Central Bank.

The Dutch Parliament was also scheduled to debate the Greek bailout on Wednesday. The government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte was expected to face a call for a vote of confidence from the right-wing populist Geert Wilders.

On Tuesday, the parliaments of Austria, Estonia and Spain voted to support the bailout.

Separately on Wednesday, the German government said that more than 37,000 asylum applications were made in July alone, and the Interior Ministry was due to release the latest projections on the number of asylum seekers expected to arrive this year.

Politicians and journalists suggested on Tuesday that the figure would be around 700,000 to 800,000 — the largest number in Europe. Germany has the biggest economy and population of the 28 European Union nations.

Ms. Merkel set the tone on Sunday night, when she noted that the refugee challenge would occupy Europe far more than even Greece and the status of the euro. She reiterated that new arrivals must be treated humanely, even if they do not eventually earn the right to stay in Germany.

 The government has expressed horror at more than 200 attacks on asylum shelters and migrants so far this year, compared with 198 in all of 2014. These attacks “are not worthy of our country,” Ms. Merkel said on Sunday.
German Parliament Approves Greek Bailout Deal German Parliament Approves Greek Bailout Deal Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 7:53 PM Rating: 5

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