German parliament backs Merkel on Greece bailout talks ‘to avoid chaos’

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German policy-makers have given overwhelming approval to opening detailed negotiations with Greece on a new bailout package.

Members of parliament voted 439-119 in favour of the commencement of discussions, while there were 40 abstentions.

Chancellor Angela Merkel needed parliament’s approval to launch talks thrashing out details of the package.

On Monday, Ms Merkel and other eurozone leaders struck a preliminary deal for a three-year bailout of Greece which is expected to be worth €85bn.

Germany has been the largest single contributor to Greece’s bailouts but it has taken a hard line, insisting on stringent spending cuts and tax hikes in return.

Ms Merkel acknowledged concerns over the chances of a successful bailout but said the alternative would be chaos in Greece.

The German parliament’s vote capped a week in which the proposed bailout agreed by eurozone leaders on Monday has cleared a string of hurdles.

That has raised expectations that Greece will secure a financial lifeline to allow the country to reopen its banks and get back towards some sort of economic normality.

Earlier today, Austrian policy-makers also cleared the way for the talks.

Specific terms of the three-year bailout will now be thrashed out between Greece and its partners in the 19-nation eurozone, in a process expected to last around four weeks.

“The principle … of responsibility and solidarity that has guided us since the beginning of the European debt crisis marks the entire result from Monday,” Ms Merkel told the special session of parliament.

The alternative to an agreement, she added, “would not be a time-out from the euro that would be orderly … but predictable chaos”.

Ms Merkel will have to return to parliament to seek approval for the final deal when the negotiations are concluded.

“I know that many have doubts and concerns about whether this road will be successful, about whether Greece will have the strength to take it in the long term, and no one can brush aside these concerns,” she said.

“But I am firmly convinced of one thing: we would be grossly negligent, even irresponsible, if we did not at least try this road.”

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