Politicians in the Bundestag have approved reopening debt talks with Athens by a margin of 439 to 119. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble found himself the center of attention during the tense debate.
The vote in Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, on whether to renew financial negotiations with debt-ridden Greece on Friday passed by an overwhelming majority of 439 votes for to 119 votes against with 40 abstentions.
Although it was seen as a given that the Bundestag would support Chancellor Angela Merkel in her backing of a third bailout package for the cash-strapped eurozone member, a tense debate preceded the decision as well as a minor mutiny from within her own conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).
Ahead of the vote, nearly 50 CDU parliamentarians had indicated their intentions to vote 'No' to the possibility of creditors giving Athens a further 86 billion euros ($94 billion) on top of the 240 billion it has received in recent years.
Even the Merkel administration’s own finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has voiced an opinion counter to that of the chancellor’s - namely that Greece should take a temporary exit from the eurozone. Despite this, he still urged parliamentarians to vote 'Yes' on Friday.
Opening the debate, Chancellor Merkel called for "European solidarity" with Greece and the Greek people, and encouraged everyone to vote in the affirmative so that Germany could help their fellow EU country "come out stronger than it went in."
In his own remarks, Finance Minister Schäuble defended the bailout as a "last try to perform an incredibly difficult task" and in response to the opposition Left party’s call for helping Greece by forgiving some of its debt, said debt relief was impossible under European law.
Schäuble was the focus of some ire on the part of the left. Ahead of the debate, party leader Gregor Gysi tweeted that "the chancellor the last few weeks wasn’t Merkel, but Wolfgang Schäuble," and called him an "undemocratic and anti-social" bureaucrat who was trying to "destroy the European idea" during his speech on the Bundestag floor.
es/msh (AFP, dpa)