German parliament approves Greek bailout
Germany's parliament overwhelmingly approved a third bailout for Greece on Wednesday, removing a key hurdle to providing new loans to the country and keeping it from defaulting on its debts in as little as 24 hours.
The vote's result also seemed to dispel any speculation that Chancellor Angela Merkel would have difficulty getting her conservative bloc to sign on. Lawmakers voted 454-113 in favor, with 18 abstentions. The approval is among the last due from parliaments across Europe, with the Dutch scheduled to vote later Wednesday, after which Greece is expected to get the first installment of its new 86 billion euro ($95 billion) loans package.
The country needs the cash to make a debt repayment Thursday. The board of the European bailout fund that will disburse the money will hold a teleconference Wednesday night to discuss the matter.
The German approval was never in doubt but in a similar vote last month, 60 members of Merkel's conservative bloc voted against and some local media had speculated that even more could rebel this time as Germans are increasingly skeptical about giving Greece more money.
Though a party-breakdown of the vote was not immediately available, the result suggested that if anything, more of Merkel's lawmakers voted in line with her recommendation
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a senior member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Party who has been one of the harshest critics of Greece, may have helped the cause as he lobbied hard ahead of the vote for the passage of Greek's third bailout in five years.
Schaeuble told lawmakers that approval of the three-year loan package is "in the interest of Greece and the interest of Europe." He noted that the Greek government has taken big steps over the past few weeks to restore trust with its creditors.
Schaeuble conceded that voting in favor of the bailout wasn't an easy one for him, but that "it would be irresponsible to not use the chance for a new beginning in Greece" in light of the fact that the Greek parliament has already backed a large chunk of reform measures demanded by creditors.
Germany is the largest single contribu- tor to the bailouts and many in Schaeuble's party remain skeptical. Merkel's coalition partner, the Social Democrats, and the opposition Greens also backed the deal.
In the Netherlands, lawmakers interrupted their summer recess to debate the Dutch government's support for the Greek bailout.
Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam lawmaker who is also a staunch opponent of the European Union and financial support for Greece, opened the debate by calling Prime Minister Mark Rutter "the Pinocchio of the Low Countries" for breaking an election pledge not to approve another bailout.
Rutte does not formally need Parliament's support to sign off on the bailout, but is unlikely to do so without support of a majority of lawmakers. Ahead of the debate, Rutte's own party said it supports - grudgingly - the bailout, as does coalition partner the Labor Party and proEuropean party Democrats 66, giving the government a comfortable majority in the 150-seat legislature. Under the terms of the deal, Greece has to make further spending cuts and tax increases and implement big reforms to its economy.