Germany backs Greek extension but bailout fatigue grows

Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:22am EST
 
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By Stephen Brown

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's parliament approved an extension of Greece's bailout on Friday but a record number of dissenters from Angela Merkel's conservatives underscored growing scepticism in Berlin about whether a new Greek government can be trusted to deliver on its reform pledges.

With Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble promising not to let Greece "blackmail" its euro zone partners, 542 members of the Bundestag voted "yes" to the extension, while 32 opposed it and 13 abstained.

It was the biggest majority for a euro zone bailout since the crisis erupted five years ago, in part because Merkel's year-old "grand coalition" enjoys a dominant position in the Bundestag lower house.

But 29 of the 32 "no" votes came from Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) -- more conservative rebels than any other lower house vote.

"We Germans should do everything to keep Europe together," said Schaeuble, the 72-year-old political veteran who has clashed repeatedly with the new leftist government in Athens, notably his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis.

The parliamentary debate showed widespread misgivings about Greece. The broader German population also grown more skeptical since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took power last month, with a poll this week showing only 21 percent of Germans back an extension for Greece.

"Look at Tsipras, look at Varoufakis: would you buy a used car from them?" CDU dissident Klaus-Peter Wilsch said in parliament. The CSU said it was Athens' "last chance" to get its act together.

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German deputies cast their vote on the approval to extend Greece's bailout, during a session of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, in Berlin February 27, 2015.                 REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke