German lawmakers approve Greek bailout despite qualms

Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:44am EST
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By Gareth Jones and Stephen Brown

BERLIN (Reuters) - German lawmakers approved the latest bailout for Greece on Friday by a large majority despite growing unease about the cost to taxpayers less than a year before federal elections.

The outcome of the vote in the lower house was never in doubt but it was a test of Angela Merkel's authority over her center-right coalition. She did not manage to draw an absolute majority from her own ranks after 23 of her lawmakers rebelled.

But with the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens voting in favor with most of Merkel's bloc, the revolt had only symbolic value. Of 584 deputies present in the chamber, 473 voted for the bailout and 100 voted against.

The parliamentary floor leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats, Michael Grosse-Broemer, said he was happy with the result of the vote, adding: "Greece must now continue its efforts to reduce its debts and carry out structural reforms."

The package, which aims to cut Greece's debt load to 124 percent of national output by 2020, coincides with increased talk among German lawmakers and media that euro zone governments will eventually have to write off much of their Greek debt.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in the Bundestag debate that such speculation could undermine the Greek government's reform drive.

"If we say the debts will be written off (Greece's) willingness to make savings is correspondingly weakened. Such false speculation does not solve the problems," he said. "A Greek bankruptcy could lead to the break-up of the euro zone."

The government acknowledged for the first time this week that the bailout will mean lost federal revenues.   Continued...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and fellow parliamentarians get ready to vote on financial help for Greece at the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag in Berlin, November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter