German parliament approves bailout for Greece 'in the interests of Europe'
German MPs voted to back a third bailout for Greece yesterday as Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte faced the threat of a no-confidence vote over his decision to support the €86bn rescue plan.
After a three-hour debate, the Bundestag approved a new rescue package for Greece with a majority of 454 votes to 13. Eighteen MPs abstained.
Within chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian CDU-CSU coalition, 228 MPs voted in favour of the deal, with 63 against and three abstentions. In an earlier vote last month, 60 coalition MPs voted "no" to new aid for Greece.
German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told policymakers that a deal was in the "interest of Europe", and while his backing for a third bailout deal was "not easy" and there was "no guarantee of success", denying Greece would be "irresponsible".
"If Greece stands by its obligations and the programme is completely and resolutely implemented, then the Greek economy can grow again," he said. "The opportunity is there. Whether it will be used, only the Greeks can decide."
A Dutch backlash against a third deal was led by right-wing politician Geert Wilders, who has called for the Netherlands to withdraw from the EU.
"Today we are here to prevent Dutch PM Rutte from indulging in his favourite hobby: sending money to Greece, this time €5bn," Mr Wilders told the Dutch parliament.
He said Mr Rutte had reneged on a pledge in September 2012 that "enough is enough" and that Greece would get no more financial help.
"He's the Pinocchio of the low countries. This is betrayal," he said Mr Wilders. "We need this money to support health care and the elderly."
The leader of the Freedom party said he was demanding the confidence motion because Mr Rutte's coalition of Liberals and the Labour Party had left pensioners "out in the cold" while spending on Greece and asylum-seekers.
"Millions of Dutch have had enough of this prime minister," he said.
Mr Schaeuble, who has previously called for Greece to leave the eurozone temporarily, said he was asking for approval from German MPs with "full conviction".
He described the involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a third deal as "indispensable" and said he had no doubt the fund would join if all conditions were met.
The IMF has said it will refuse to participate in a new rescue programme unless there is an "explicit and concrete agreement" on debt relief from the country's creditors. Mr Schaeuble said yesterday that there was "limited" scope to cut Greece's debt burden.
Germany's approval of a third Greek bailout paves the way for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) - the eurozone's bailout fund - to disburse the first tranche of €26bn to Athens.
An immediate payment of around €13bn is expected to be handed to Greece shortly so the country can make a €3.2bn loan repayment to the European Central Bank.
"This policy is not bringing salvation, not for Greece, not for the euro and above all not for Europe. Quite the opposite: it is damaging the European concept because it is dividing Europe rather than uniting it," said the chief editor of Bild, Germany's most popular newspaper.
(© Daily Telegraph London)