German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday opened debate with a list of arguments about why lawmakers should approve a second Greek bailout. Her government was not expected to have any trouble getting the measure passed.
German lawmakers have begun a debate in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, which is to end with a vote on the latest international bailout for Greece.
Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the debate with a speech in which she explained why parliamentarians should approve the bailout package, worth 130 billion euros ($175 billion).
The chancellor stressed that approving the package wasn't only about bailing out Greece, but also about the entire eurozone. She described the package as part of a greater effort to create a stability union to safeguard the common currency. Helping Greece, she said, was in the interests of both Europe and Germany.
Merkel highlighted the efforts that Greece had already made and new measures that it has agreed to make to bring its public debt under control. She also noted the fact that the private sector had agreed to get involved, with lenders to write down more than 100 billion euros of bad Greek debt.
She stressed that this latest bailout wasn't just about forcing Greece to implement austerity measures. She said it was more about making it more competitive and capable of creating economic growth in the long term.
"There is now no alternative to correcting the mistakes of the past," the chancellor said, apparently referring to the budgetary practices of past Greek governments
Merkel also warned of what she said would be incalculable risks if Greece were to pull out of the eurozone.
"Nobody can foresee what the consequences of a disorderly default would have for all of us, including the people of Germany," the chancellor said.
Here, Merkel was referring to dissent from within the ranks of her own coalition. In the days leading up to Monday's debate, there were clear signs that not everyone in the coalition of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) was completely on board on the issue.
Much of the dissent came from the state of Bavaria.
On Sunday, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich of the Christian Social Union, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, became the first member of Merkel's cabinet to come out in favor of Greece leaving the eurozone.
"Greece's chances of regenerating itself and becoming competitive would certainly be better than if it stays in the eurozone," the Spiegel Online news website quoted Friedrich as saying.
"I'm not talking about kicking Greece out, but instead about creating incentives for it to leave, that it couldn't refuse," Friedrich added. The Bavarian finance minister and another leading member of the CSU made similar statements over the weekend.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle responded by warning against talking the bailout down. He told the daily paper Die Welt that such comments could do nothing but undermine the difficult efforts to restore trust in Greece.
The head of the CDU's parliamentary party, Volker Kauder, told German public television that talk of Greece returning to the drachma sent the wrong signal.
Despite the isolated dissent, the government was not expected to have any trouble getting the bailout approved by the Bundestag.
pfd/ncy (Reuters, AFP)