Greek chances running out as Germany backs bailout

Angela Merkel appears relieved as the German parliament agrees to extend Europe's bailout of Greece. Picture: AP
Angela Merkel appears relieved as the German parliament agrees to extend Europe's bailout of Greece. Picture: AP
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GERMANY’S parliament has overwhelmingly approved a four-month extension of Greece’s financial bailout – despite unease over the new government in Athens.

Politicians voted 542-32 to back the bailout extension, with 13 abstentions.

Greece was granted the extension by its European creditors in exchange for a commitment to budget reforms.

Germany is among the countries that needed to approve the deal in its national parliament.

“This is not about new billions for Greece, not about changing this programme,” finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble assured parliament ahead of the vote. “It’s about providing additional time to complete this programme successfully.”

Comments by Greek officials casting doubt on their promise on privatisation deals and raising the possibility of further debt relief had irked some in Germany in the run-up to the vote.

Mr Schaeuble said: “We Germans should do everything to keep Europe together and bring it together, as far as we can.”

Germany, a key creditor nation, has nevertheless been among the strongest advocates of unpopular spending cuts and insists aid must come with strings attached.

Mr Schaeuble told parliament the eurozone is on the right track. “We must stick to this course and we must say to our colleagues in Greece that, with all respect for voters’ decisions in Greece, Greece alone cannot decide in Europe what the right path is,” he said.

Left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras ousted traditionally dominant political parties in 25 January elections, promising to scrap bailout agreements and supervision, and demand a massive write-down of Greece’s 240 billion Euro bailout debt.

However, his government has backed off key demands and secured a bailout extension by pledging a series of policy measures including adherence to certain reforms.

A minority of politicians in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc has consistently voted against bailouts for European strugglers.

Still, with Ms Merkel’s current coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats having four-fifths of the parliamentary seats and, with opposition support as well, approval for the bailout extension had always looked 

“[But] if you’re not travelling in the right direction, there’s no point in always speeding up – you just get further from your destination,” said Klaus-Peter Willsch, a member of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

He pointed to the possibility of a further bailout package for Greece this summer, which Mr Schaeuble didn’t mention, and said that “it will never end.”

Andreas Scheuer, a senior conservative who backed extending the bailout, said: “Everyone has a feeling that isn’t just positive.” He added: “We will have to rely on the Greek government delivering now. This is one of the last chances we are giving Greece.”