Germany backs $175 billion aid plan for Greece
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany managed to keep her strategy for attacking Greece’s debt problems on track with a victory in Parliament Monday, but was able to win the vote only with the help of opposition parties.
Without votes from the Social Democrats and the Green Party, Merkel would not have received the backing she needed from the Bundestag to sign off on the $175 billion Greek rescue package when she travels to Brussels for the summit of European leaders Thursday and Friday.
The vote passed with 496 in favor, 90 against and five abstentions. Although she won by a large margin, Merkel failed to reach the so-called chancellor’s majority — a simple majority from the ranks of the ruling coalition parties.
The defections from her ranks were the clearest sign of how much doubts grow here that Greece’s finances can be stabilized in the long run.
Over the weekend a Cabinet member for the first time broke ranks with Merkel and said Greece should leave the euro.
European finance ministers reached a deal last week after leaders in Athens agreed to deeper cuts in public spending.
“No one can give a 100-percent guarantee of success,” Merkel said, acknowledging the growing doubts. But there would be “incalculable risks,” if help for Greece was cut off.
German approval was an important step toward finalizing the bailout, but only one of many. The Dutch and Finnish parliaments are also expected to vote this week on the aid package, and the agreement to write down of private sector holdings of Greek debt has yet to be completed.
While Merkel won this round, the German public is increasingly fed up with bailouts and rescue funds, for Greece in particular, and there are questions about how well that support will hold up.
Many conservative politicians and financial experts oppose the Greek bailout as a matter of principle. But a growing number of politicians, economists and the public have begun to express doubts about the practical feasibility of the rescue plan. The Greek economy keeps shrinking faster than anticipated, shrinking tax revenue and making the deficits all that much harder to close, and there are few signs of recovery in sight.
The news that some Greek lawmakers have been shifting personal assets out of the troubled country only added to the sense of pessimism and overall gloom.