German lawmakers back Greek bailout talks despite rebellion

Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:18am EDT
 
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By Paul Carrel

BERLIN (Reuters) - German lawmakers gave their go ahead on Friday for the euro zone to negotiate a third bailout for Greece, heeding a warning from Chancellor Angela Merkel that the alternative to a deal with Athens was chaos.

The Bundestag lower house of parliament, whose backing is essential for the talks to start, decisively approved the move by 439 votes to 119, with 40 abstentions. But almost a fifth of Merkel's conservatives voted 'no' in a blow to the chancellor.

Popular misgivings run deep in Germany, the euro zone country which has already contributed most to Greece's two bailouts since 2010, about funneling yet more aid to Athens.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has questioned whether a new program will succeed, although the creditors' offer to Athens includes the conditions for more austerity and economic reform that Berlin had demanded.

But Merkel argued for negotiating a new deal to prevent a Greek exit from the euro - the "Grexit" that might undermine the entire currency union - and said suggestions Athens might temporarily leave the euro wouldn't work.

"The alternative to this agreement would not be a 'time-out' from the euro ... but rather predictable chaos," she told the Bundestag. "We would be grossly negligent, and act irresponsibly, if we didn’t at least attempt this way."

Schaeuble himself has suggested that Greece might be better off taking such a time-out from the euro zone to sort out its daunting economic problems.

But Merkel said neither Greece nor the other 18 euro zone member countries were willing to accept the idea. "Therefore this way was not viable," she added.   Continued...

 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to vote during the session of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, July 17, 2015. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt