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Green light for first round of Greek bailout

August 19, 2015

The decision from eurozone finance ministers has come after pro-bailout votes in the German and Dutch parliaments. Dutch Prime Minister Rutte survived pushback from his own party to secure support for the bailout.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Maat

The finance ministers from the 19 eurozone countries gave the green light on Wednesday for the latest round of bailout funds to Greece, according the EU commissioner for the common euro currency, Valdis Dombrovskis.

The decision from the Eurogroup clears the final hurdle for Athens to receive its 85 billion euro ($95 billion) in rescue funds. The finance ministers approved the first tranche of 13 billion euros just in time for Greece to meet Thursday's deadline for repaying about 3.4 billion euros to the European Central Bank.

The Hague, Berlin say 'yes' to bailout

The Eurogroup's move came right after the Dutch parliament supported the third bailout package to Greece, voting down a motion against it by a margin of 81-52. Prime Minister Mark Rutte also survived a no confidence vote called by far-right politician Geert Wilders.

Wilders accused Rutte, of the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), of "betraying his electorate" by reneging on a promise not to send any more money to cash-strapped Greece. Although his cabinet, which includes Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, stood behind the prime minister on the bailout, some other members of the VVD were quite skeptical, saying they would only support the rescue fund with the backing of the International Monetary Fund.

It was only after a lengthy closed-door meeting on Tuesday that the VVD bloc in parliament grudgingly agreed to support the bailout. In Wednesday's vote, only one VVD member of parliament voted to reject it. The IMF, for its part, said through chief Christine Lagarde that it would wait until October to decide whether or not to participate, though she called it "an important step forward."

Rutte emphasized that an approval from the Netherlands' parliament was not necessary for the bailout to go forward, but that politically it was better to be sure the majority of lawmakers were behind the loan before he signed off on it.

Earlier on Wednesday, the German parliament approved the funds by an overwhelming majority, despite skepticism amongst some voters over pouring more money into Greece.

Greek PM: European voters need a seat at the table

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged the European Parliament to join the group of creditors overseeing the bailout deal. The request came in the form of a letter to the parliament's president, Martin Schultz of Germany.

Tsipras argued that the European Parliament - which is directly elected by voters within the European Union - should represent voters at large as the 86 billion euro bailout is implemented.

The bailout is currently being overseen by the so-called quartet that includes the European Central Bank, European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Stability Mechanism - each lacking a direct mandate from voters.

"I deem it politically imperative that the sole European institution with direct popular mandate acts as the ultimate guarantor of democratic accountability and compatibility of economic policy in Europe," Tsipras wrote Wednesday.

A Greek government source told the AFP news agency that Tsipras had spoken by phone to Schultz on Wednesday and that the European Parliament's president had "positively welcomed the demand" saying such an initiative had already been floated within the Strasbourg-based parliament.

The Greek premier is now considering holding early elections as the latest bailout flies in the face of his party's campaign pledges and threatens to split his leftis party.

A decision is expected as early as next week.

Led by Tsipras, Syriza rose to power in January's general elections following a wave of popular anger against austerity-imposed tax hikes, spending cuts and privatizations demanded by creditors in exchange for previous bailouts totaling 240 billion euros but offering little to no prospect of economic recovery.

es/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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