German Parliament Approves Greek Rescue

German Parliament Approves Greek Rescue
# 07 May 2010 18:37 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. After one of its most heated debates in years, the German Parliament voted Friday to approve its part of the emergency package arranged by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, APA reports quoting “The New York Times”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the few European leaders to impose strict conditions on Greece before agreeing to any rescue package, managed to win a comfortable majority in the lower house, the Bundestag, with 391 of the 622 legislators voting in favor.
The Bundesrat, or upper house which represents the 16 German states, passed the law by a clear majority.
The German votes came as other nations in the euro zone also gave their assent to the Greek rescue — from larger members like France and Italy to struggling Portugal, which faces concerns about its own debt.
Leaders of the 16 euro zone countries were preparing to meet in Brussels on Friday evening to discuss final details of the aid package, which totals 110 billion euros, or about $140 billion. Ahead of the meeting, finance ministers of the group known as the G-7 — which includes the United States, Britain, Japan and Canada as well as three euro zone members, Germany, France and Italy — scheduled a conference call to address growing concerns that a failure to effectively contain the Greek financial crisis could cause it to spread quickly to other European countries and beyond, roiling world markets.
The stakes of the Greek rescue were stated starkly in the debate in Germany, which is contributing 22.4 billion euros to the package. In several television interviews in recent days, Mrs. Merkel and particularly Wolfgang Schäuble, her finance minister, spoke in impassioned terms as to why Germany must support Greece.
Both conservative politicians said it was not just about the future stability of the euro, but also about the future of Europe as an economic and political union.
“It would be devastating to even risk a chance of Greece, a member of the euro zone, going bankrupt,” Mr. Schäuble told legislators Friday. “We have to reject any idea of Greece attempting to pay off its own debts if we want any chance of preserving the stability of the common currency.”
Mrs. Merkel’s victory on the Greek aid issue in Parliament came just two days before crucial regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, where Mrs. Merkel’s coalition of conservatives and Free Democrats is struggling to retain their majority.
Her coalition was catapulted into power there in 2005, breaking a long stranglehold by the Social Democrats in Germany’s most populous state as well as one of the industrial regions of the country.
Mrs. Merkel’s conservative bloc, which includes her Christian Democratic Union party and its sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union supported the Greek package, although there were four no votes from her bloc. There was one no vote from her Free Democrat coalition partners.
Mrs. Merkel has little time to sell the package to voters in North-Rhine Westphalia. She had to repeatedly cancel election rallies because of all the political wrangling back in Berlin.
The Social Democrats, now in opposition after spending four years in Mrs. Merkel’s first coalition between 2005 and 2009, abstained from the parliamentary vote, with four legislators breaking ranks and voting yes with the government.
Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats, told parliament Friday that his parliamentary grouping would abstain because Mrs. Merkel had done little or nothing to impose regulations on the banking and financial sectors.
Then came the turn of the Green Party, whose leaders, Renate Künast and Jürgen Trittin, had over the past weeks repeatedly criticized Mrs. Merkel for reacting too slowly to the crisis, and above all, for failing to provide leadership inside Germany and in Europe over what has become the biggest test for monetary union.
Yet at the end of the day, the Greens overwhelmingly voted for the new “transfer tax” law, with four abstentions. “This is a vote today for Europe,” said Ms. Künast in a speech during the final debate on Friday.