Berlin: German lawmakers gave Chancellor Angela Merkel the green light today to resume talks on a new EU-IMF bailout deal for Greece, after she passionately argued it was the last chance to prevent “chaos” in the crisis-hit country.
Merkel, like Greece’s hard-left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, faced rebels in her own party ranks, but still won broad approval from the chamber where her “grand coalition” commands an overwhelming majority.
The measure to seek a new 86-billion-euro (USD 94 billion) rescue package sailed through the Bundestag by 439 to 119 votes with 40 abstentions. Addressing the chamber before the vote, Merkel had argued that “we would be grossly negligent, indeed acting irresponsibly if we did not at least try this path”.
It was Merkel — leader of the EU’s biggest economy and effective bailout paymaster — who spearheaded last weekend’s marathon Brussels talks that brought Greece back from the brink of crashing out of the euro, at the price of Athens accepting painful reforms.
The chancellor said there was “no doubt that the agreement of Monday morning was hard” but urged lawmakers to back the deal, calling it “a last try”. She said if a compromise over Greece had not been reached, it would have meant “watching on as the country virtually bleeds out, people no longer getting their money, where chaos and violence could be the result”.
Equally, “bending the rules until they’re worthless” was not an option, she said, arguing that for Europe this “would mean the end of a community bound by legal rules, and we wouldn’t agree to that”.
That was why, she said, “we are making a last try in tough, tenacious discussions” to seal a third aid package, “despite all the setbacks of the past six months and despite all legitimate scepticism”.
The German ‘Yes’ vote came a day after European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi boosted a vital cash lifeline to Greece’s struggling banks that will allow them to open their doors for the first time in almost three weeks on Monday.
To prevent a catastrophic “Grexit”, parliament in Athens early Thursday adopted sweeping reforms on pensions, taxes and labour laws that were harsher than those Greeks had rejected in a July 5 referendum.
The about-face sparked violent street protests and speculation of early elections in Greece, where the hard-left Syriza party came to power in January polls.