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19th Nov 2018

German MPs vote on Greece amid misgivings

  • The Bundestag is expected to vote in favour but the number of dissenters will be keenly watched (Photo: Deutscher Bundestag/Lichtblick/Achim Melde)

The German parliament will today (17 July) vote on whether to open negotiations on a new €86 billion bailout for Greece, amid growing misgivings in the governing centre-right party about loaning the debt-ridden country even more money.

Their doubts are reflected across the wider population. According to a poll for ARD-Morgenmagazin, Germans are almost evenly split on the issue. While 46 percent are in favour of opening bailout talks, 49 percent would prefer the parliament to reject negotations.

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The Bundestag is expected to come down in favour of opening the talks, but the number of those saying No, and who exactly says it, will be keenly scrutinised.

When the German parliament last voted on Greece, in February, on an extension of the bailout, 29 deputies from the centre-right CDU and CSU parties voted against the government.

Although it represented only a fraction of MPs from within her ranks, it was a record number of conservatives dissenting from chancellor Angela Merkel's line. A further 109 centre-right deputies signed statements noting that, while they had voted for the extension, they had done so with reservations.

In a pre-vote amongst CDU/CSU deputies on Thursday evening, 48 deputies voted against the bailout negotiations.

The Greek question has penetrated deep into the German public opinion, with radio and TV talkshows regularly discussing the issue.

One centre-right deputy told German radio that he and his party colleagues were receiving hundreds of letters from constituents asking them not to approve giving more money to Greece.

Another centre-right deputy, Hans-Peter Friedrich, told Phoenix TV: "We are actually not in favour of a third aid packet, but (finance minister) Wolfgang Schaeuble deserves our support."

Meanwhile, the Social Democrats, which are part of the governing coalition, are expected to vote almost to a deputy in favour of the negotiations. But there will be at least one high-profile No from within their ranks.

Peer Steinbrueck, a former finance minister, on Thursday indicated he would reject the talks.

The Bild newspaper, Germany's most widely-read paper, is also campaigning against a third Greek bailout. A headline Friday states: "New money for [Greek PM] Tsipras and Greece. Seven reasons why the parliament should vote No today".

Merkel, for her part, said she is "absolutely convinced" the deal is the best way forward.

The opening of negotiations is only the first step in a long process, however.

The detailed terms of the bailout will then have to be agreed and voted on again in several eurozone parliaments.

In the meantime, creditors will be keeping a close eye on Greece to make sure it implements "prior actions" as a sign of good faith and puts into place legislation they consider in keeping with necessary reforms.

The bailout is to be a three-year programme.

Asked about its success, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the Wall Street Journal: "We’ll have a lot of hiccups. Some of the measures are very difficult in terms of public support. There are a lot of vested interests which will demonstrate and which will argue against it".

"Is it going to be easy? No, we are going to have a lot of problems in the coming years, absolutely. Can we sort them out? I think so", he added.

Germany approves talks on new Greek bailout

The Bundestag Friday voted to open negotiations for a third aid programme for Greece but the number of rebel centre-right MPs voting No grew from 29 in February to 60.

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