BERLIN – Germany’s finance minister brought a proposed four-month bailout extension for Greece before Parliament Friday, telling lawmakers the measure was in Europe’s best interest.
“This is not about new billions for Greece, not about changing this program,” Wolfgang Schaeuble assured Parliament ahead of the vote. “It’s about providing additional time to completing this program successfully.”
Despite some skepticism, a large majority of lawmakers in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc have signalled their backing and their centre-left coalition partners are firmly behind the deal.
Germany, a key creditor nation, has advocated unpopular spending cuts and insisted that aid must come with strings attached. Comments by Greek officials casting doubt on privatization deals and raising the possibility of further debt relief have irked some in Germany.
Schaeuble said that comments before and after the Greek election hadn’t made deciding to extend the bailout easy, and “neither has the discussion in the last few days and hours, to put it with friendly restraint.”
He told lawmakers that the eurozone is on the right course. “We must stick to this course and we must say to our colleagues in Greece that, with all respect for voters’ decision in Greece, Greece alone cannot decide in Europe what the right path is.”
“We Germans should do everything to keep together and bring Europe together as much as we can … but we cannot do this on our own,” Schaeuble said.
The caucus leader of Merkel’s bloc, Volker Kauder, said Thursday that an “overwhelming majority” of his lawmakers would back the agreement – though 27 of his 311 lawmakers voted against or abstained in a test ballot.
A minority of conservative lawmakers has consistently voted against bailouts during Europe’s debt crisis. Still, Merkel’s current coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats has four-fifths of the 631 parliamentary seats.