German lawmakers to back Greek extension despite misgivings

Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:26am EST
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By Andreas Rinke

BERLIN (Reuters) - German lawmakers signaled that they will approve an extension of Greece's bailout with an overwhelming majority in parliament on Friday although many will do so reluctantly amid fears Athens will not deliver on its reform promises.

Angela Merkel's coalition has a big enough majority to easily win the vote in the Bundestag lower house to extend the rescue by four months. But many lawmakers, including Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, have expressed concern in recent days about whether Athens is to be trusted.

In Thursday's test ballot 22 of 311 lawmakers in chancellor Merkel's conservative bloc, comprising her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the CSU, opposed the extension and five abstained.

Their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, with 193 seats, voted unanimously for the extension in their test vote.

With the opposition Greens also expected to back it and the radical Left party divided, the vote should easily prevail in the 631-seat chamber, pointing to the biggest majority in the German parliament for any euro zone rescue package so far.

Still, many lawmakers are holding their noses.

"We're doing this not because of loutish comments (from Greece) but because it's in the interests of Germany and Europe," said Volker Kauder, conservative parliamentary leader.

Combative Schaeuble, who has taken a tough stance with Greece, has lobbied lawmakers to back the extension, arguing Athens is not getting softer conditions, just more time.   Continued...

A Greek national flag flutters as Greek Orthodox priests make their way on main Constitution (Syntagma) square in Athens February 25, 2015.  REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis