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German lawmakers endorse Merkel’s Greece bailout plan

Berlin: Germany’s parliament overwhelmingly endorsed negotiations today on a third financial rescue package for cash-strapped Greece involving upto 86 billion euros, which was agreed by eurozone leaders at an emergency summit in Brussels.

Out of a total of 598 lawmakers present in the Bundestag, the lower house, 439 voted in favour of an application by finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble seeking a parliamentary mandate to start negotiations with Greece on the details of a new bailout programme while 119 MPs voted against and 40 abstained.

The parliamentarians were called back from their summer holidays to take part in today’s special session.

As the largest contributor to the euro zone’s bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), Germany’s approval is crucial for the proposed bailout negotiations to get underway.

Besides the Bundestag, national parliaments in six other eurozone nations also have to agree to the negotiations.

The Greek parliament on Wednesday passed legislations to implement tough austerity measures and other reforms demanded by the country’s international creditors in return for fresh financial assistance to avert a state bankruptcy and possible exit from the euro area.

A Bundestag majority for a mandate for the proposed bailout negotiations with Greece was never in doubt, especially in view of the commanding majority Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc and her junior coalition partner the Social Democratic Party (SPD) have in the house.

Ahead of the vote, several MPs of the opposition Green Party had indicated that they would vote for a new bailout of Greece, even though it would cause additional financial burden for this country.

However, the vote also showed a growing dissent within the conservative bloc against further financial rescue of Greece, which has already received more than 240 billion euros in two bailout packages since 2010.

Opening a debate in the Bundestag ahead of the vote, Merkel appealed to the lawmakers to support further financial assistance for Greece arguing that its “benefits outweigh the disadvantages”.

“We will be acting recklessly and irresponsibly if we do not at least try this possibility,” she said.

Without fresh credits, Greece will plunge into a “predictable chaos”, she warned.

“We are doing this for the people of Greece, but we are doing this also for the people in Germany,” Merkel said.

Merkel also sharply criticised Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for taking last weekend’s eurozone summit in Brussels to the brink of a collapse by attempting to “bend the rules” to suit his advantage.

This will not be tolerated by the rest of the euro zone members, she said.

Nevertheless, she decided to work for a third rescue package for Greece as the “last attempt”, she said.