It took a stern warning to a very divided German parliament, but in the end Chancellor Angela Merkel successfully guided officials to approve the bailout package worked out for Greece on Monday.
Bloomberg reported that with a rising tide of public opinion against providing any further assistance to Greece, a number of officials in Merkel’s coalition government had begun to advocate for allowing Athens to depart the eurozone rather than provide additional funding. One of Merkel’s own Cabinet ministers, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, had earlier called for an expulsion of Greece from the eurozone rather than allowing it to remain and have Germany be compelled to provide further assistance.
Voting was split on the measure, decided on Monday, with 17 members of Merkel’s ruling coalition voting against it, three abstaining, and six others not voting at all. The vote came up short of an absolute majority in the lower house, also known as a “chancellor’s majority” that would have required 311 votes for it. Instead the measure gained 304 votes out of 591 to approve the 130 billion euro ($174 billion) bailout.
In arguing against allowing a negative vote and a Greek departure from the joint currency, Merkel was quoted saying to the Bundestag, “I think those risks are incalculable, and therefore indefensible.” She further said that although questions regarding Greece’s continued membership in the eurozone “have their justification,” she also pointed out that if the euro failed it could endanger not just the European Union but also the global economy.
Any future bailouts may be even more difficult to enact in Germany, since on Tuesday Reuters reported that the German constitutional court ruled that Parliament couldn’t delegate most decisions on the dispersal of bailout moneys to a special confidential committee meeting.
Two opposition lawmakers brought the action to the court, which decided that the nine-member subcommittee formed to approve urgent action on the rescue package was "in large part" unconstitutional because it kept other deputies from exercising their rights. That could mean that any further bailouts will have to be approved either by the 41 members of the full budget committee or the whole 620-member lower house of the Bundestag.
Votes on the current bailout package for Greece are still to be held this week by Finland and the Netherlands, neither of which has been very supportive.