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Bundestag opens Greece bailout debate

February 27, 2015

Lawmakers in Berlin have opened a parliamentary debate on whether to approve an extension of Greece's financial bailout. With the government holding an overwhelming majority, its approval is all but certain.

Deutschland Wolfgang Schäuble Debatte zur Griechenland Hilfe
Image: Reuters/H. Hanschke

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble went into Friday's debate in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, confident that the grand coalition government of his Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democrats (SPD) would approve Greece's bailout extension.

Test votes held by each of the parliamentary groups on Thursday showed that the vast majority of government lawmakers intended to vote in favor of the extension. Of the CDU-CSU's 311 deputies, only 22 voted no their test vote, while five abstained. The SPD's 193 deputies appeared were unanimous in their approval of the measure. Together, the two parties hold around 80 percent of the seats in the Bundestag.

Most of the dissenters on the government side came from the CSU, amid German media reports that after the four-month extension expires, Athens' new left-wing government is likely to need another bailout package.

Renewed talk by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis of a possible "haircut," or across the board write down of Athens' debt, has also caused renewed friction.

"I can't see anything in what Varoufakis is doing that makes life easier for us," Schäuble was quoted as saying at the CDU-CSU parliamentary group meeting on Thursday.

Clashes in Athens

Just hours before the Bundestag vote, dozens of protesters clashed with police in Athens late on Thursday. With some smashing show windows and setting parked cars alight.

These were the first street clashes since Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his anti-austerity Syriza party swept to power in a general election one moth ago. Some members of this party have accused Tsipras and Varoufakis of failing to deliver on their pledge to end austerity and renegotiated the terms of the country's bailout.

pfd/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)

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