German lawmakers to vote on Greek bailout
German lawmakers are expected to vote Wednesday on a $93 billion bailout package for Greece, a move that would help Greece meet Thursday’s deadline to repay international creditors.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, is to make the case for approving the bailout in remarks to lawmakers Wednesday. Germany is the largest single contributor to Greece’s economic bailout.
The German parliament is expected to approve the bailout, according to test votes. Sixty of the 311 lawmakers have indicated they may vote against the package.
On Friday, euro zone finance ministers approved the first $29 billion payment of a $93 billion bailout deal for Greece after the Greek parliament approved the package earlier Friday. Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Djisselbloem said that there were “differences” among the foreign ministers of the euro zone, but they “managed to solve the last issues.”
Greece needs the money from international creditors by August 20, when it must repay about $3.5 billion in debt to the European Central Bank.
The euro zone decision saved Greece from default on those debts and helped to avoid its exit from the single currency area.
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who took part in the meeting by teleconference, said in a statement that Greece must be given more debt relief.
“I remain firmly of the view that Greece’s debt has become unsustainable and that Greece cannot restore debt sustainability solely through actions on its own,” she said. Lagarde also said it is too soon to say whether the IMF would participate in the bailout, saying the IMF’s board will consider the matter in October.
Finance ministers at Friday’s meeting said they are willing to consider additional measures. However, several euro zone countries have previously said they oppose any additional debt relief for Greece.
The bailout package passed the Greek parliament by a comfortable margin in early Friday, but many lawmakers from prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist Syriza party voted against the deal. Growing discord within Syriza could split the party and lead to early elections.
Greece has been in financial turmoil for more than five years and had already received two bailouts when it came dangerously close to defaulting in June.
Critics say Greek citizens already have endured enough financial constraint. They argue that the austerity measures introduced as conditions for the third bailout package would further damage Greece’s economy.
The government has taken several steps to try to halt the financial crisis – including closing the stock exchange for more than a month, shutting banks for three weeks and instituting limits on the amount of money Greeks could withdraw.
(Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras talks to German chancellor Angela Merkel at an EU summit earlier this year. Photo: EC audiovisual service)