02/27/2012 04:48 PM

Large Majority

German Parliament Approves Greek Bailout Package

The German parliament on Monday approved the second Greek bailout package with a large majority, as expected. A total of 496 lawmakers voted in favor and 90 against, reports said. Chancellor Angela Merkel succeeded in pushing the vote through but failed to secure an absolute majority in her government.

The German parliament on Monday approved the €130 billion ($175 billion) second bailout package for Greece with a large majority, as expected.

A total of 496 lawmakers voted in favor of the package, with 90 against and five abstentions.

The parliament had been all but certain to back the motion because the opposition Social Democrats and Greens said they would support it.

In a slight setback for Angela Merkel, the chancellor failed to secure an absolute majority within her own government coalition. A total of 304 members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) voted in favor of the bailout, but 311 were required for a majority. Within the CDU/CSU bloc, 13 politicians rejected the bailout, with four members of the FDP joining them to oppose it. Ultimately, Merkel had to rely on opposition support.

In a speech before the vote, the chancellor had conceded that there was no "100 percent guarantee" that the rescue would succeed, but said the potential benefits outweighed the risks.

"Europe will fail if the euro fails. Europe wins if the euro wins," she said in a statement to parliament, repeating her mantra that the euro zone must be kept intact despite signs that her coalition is divided on whether Greece can be rescued.

Risks Entailed in Not Helping Greece 'Incalculable'

Earlier, Merkel rebuked Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich for saying Greece should be encouraged to leave the euro zone. Friedrich later backtracked from the comment and said he supported the official German government line that the Greek economy should be reformed within the euro zone. The bailout, he said, was the "best alternative. Otherwise I wouldn't vote for it."

Merkel told lawmakers it would be irresponsible to abandon Athens now. "I know the voices of those who regard Greece as a hopeless case," she said. But the risks entailed in not helping Greece were "incalculable."

"I must sometimes take risks -- but I mustn't enter into adventures, my oath of office forbids me to do that," she said. She added: "Every member state bears responsibility for itself, but also for the entire euro zone."

She reiterated her call for clear rules allowing member states to be punished for exceeding deficit and debt limits in future. The Greek government, she said, must now implement its comprehensive reform pledges.

She also made clear that she would hold out against mounting pressure for a quick decision on enlarging the permanent €500 billion rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism.

"The government currently sees no need for a debate on increasing the capacity" of the ESM, she said. But she added that Germany was ready to speed up its planned payments of capital into the ESM, and that Berlin could pay in the first half -- €11 billion -- this year and the rest in 2013.

cro -- with wire reports


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