Sunday

24th Jun 2018

Germany approves talks on new Greek bailout

  • Merkel said Germany is committed to ensure that Greece can remain in the eurozone (Photo: Bundeskanzlerei)

The German parliament Friday (17 July) gave the government a mandate to negotiate a new Greek bailout, with the majority of No votes coming from left-wing deputies.

A total of 439 MPs voted Yes to the agreement reached at a euro summit Monday morning (13 July) while 119 voted against, including 60 from the centre-right governing CDU/CSU.

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The rest of those voting against including 63 leftist deputies and six from other factions. Forty MPs abstained.

In February, 542 MPs had voted for the extension of the previous bailout, with just 32 MPs (29 of which were CDU/CSU) voting against and 13 abstaining.

In her speech to open the debate, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that what was at stake was not only Greece but "the future of Europe".

"The agreement has more advantages than disadvantages," she said.

Speaking to MPs and also to a German public opinion that is reluctant to support a new bailout programme, Merkel said that an alternative would "chaos and violence" in Greece.

"We would be grossly negligent, and act irresponsibly, if we didn’t at least attempt this way."

Merkel said Germany was "committed to ensure that Greece can remain in the eurozone".

"The euro is more than a currency, it is a symbol of the idea for European Union," she said.

Control

Asking the Bundestag to grant her government a mandate to negotiate the bailout, she said Monday's agreement was "hard for Greece and for the Eurozone".

The bailout, which could amount to €86 billion "is a case of solidarity that is unprecedented in Europe", she said.

But the trade-off for Greece is to accept very close monitoring of the implementation of the plan.

"We agreed on a process of verification because we know that words are one things and acts are another thing," she told MPs.

"Control is important. We cannot trust words alone."

"Responsibility and solidarity has been a very important rule since the beginning of the negotiation," and this rule is reflected in the agreement, she said.

Merkel also addressed Greek PM Alexis Tsipras' initial ambition to end austerity in Greece and change the conditions of the bailouts.

"A country cannot, through a new election, change European contracts. We are a community based on law," she said.

The sentence could also be considered a warning to other European anti-austerity parties, like Spain's Podemos which is expected to do well in autumn's general election.

Last try

While she "warmly thanked" her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble "who debated and negotiated for hours and hours" - a tribute that triggered long applause in the Bundestag - she dismissed his idea of a temporary Greek exit from the eurozone.

Merkel also underlined the geopolitical reasons for keeping Greece in the eurozone.

"If we think of all difficulties ahead of us - migration, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, etc.. We have not only taken a decision concerning Greece but also the eurozone," she said.

"Many things are at stake, we must approve this agreement."

Speaking after the chancellor, Schäuble asked MPs to approve the agreement, saying he was "convinced this solution works".

But he warned that the deal was "a last try to fulfill this exceptionally difficult mission".

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