German lawmakers approved a hard-won bailout extension for Greece Friday in a move Germany’s finance chief called “not easy” but necessary, lifting the last hurdle to keeping a crucial lifeline open to Athens.
With worsening Greek economic data heightening the pressure, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble vigorously urged German MPs to support giving Greece a four-month breathing space despite widespread misgivings.
“I’d like to ask parliament, each lawmaker, not to reject the request by the ministry of finance, which wasn’t easy for me either, because this would do great harm to our people and our future,” Schaeuble told parliament.
The 72-year-old deeply pro-European minister, who has traded barbs with Athens in recent weeks, said the peoples of Europe were a “community” based on solidarity where those currently better off help those in difficulty.
“We, and especially Germany, will have a good future in the 21st century only if European integration remains successful and if we stand united in Europe,” he said.
The plain-talking veteran minister had starkly warned earlier this week that Greece would not receive “a single euro” until it meets the pledges of its existing 240-billion-euro ($270-billion) bailout programme.
And he sought to reassure lawmakers it was not a question of stumping up “new billions” for Greece, or changing the bailout but rather about “granting more time to successfully conclude” the plan adopted for Athens in 2012.
As expected, the extension won overwhelming support in the lower house Bundestag where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s left-right coalition has a commanding majority.
Some 541 MPs voted in favour, according to a slightly modified count released by parliament later, while 32 lawmakers voted against and 13 abstained.