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German MPs to vote on Greek bailout

German Parliament is expected to approve on Monday the country’s participation in a new bailout for Greece, a day before Greek MPs vote on wide-ranging budget cuts, including reductions to pensions.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is to open Monday’s debate in Germany with a speech about the Greek rescue deal and the European Union leaders’ summit this Thursday and Friday.

Her conservative party’s chief parliamentary whip, Peter Altmaier, told ARD television he believes an “overwhelmingly large majority” of its lawmakers will back the bailout. With two opposition parties also expected to vote in favor, he said he expects a “wide majority” overall.

Though legislators look headed to back the deal, there’s a sense of unease in Germany over the costs involved in preventing a Greek debt default.

The mass-circulation Bild daily, which has always taken a very hard line on Greece, plastered the word “STOP!” over its front page on Monday. Its message to lawmakers was: “Don’t keep on going the wrong way.”

Altmaier said the government did not take the decision lightly and sought to dampen down on talk of another bailout in the future.

“It would be completely wrong if, at this point in time, we speculated about a further aid package that might be needed in a few years,” he added.

It isn’t yet clear exactly what Germany’s share will be of the new Greek bailout, which is accompanied by a massive bond swap on the part of Greece’s private creditors that is designed to knock €107 billion off the country’s debt mountain.

Underlining some lawmakers’ unease about the future, the weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday quoted Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich as arguing that Greece would have better chances of “regenerating and becoming more competitive” outside the eurozone.

“I’m not talking about throwing Greece out, but about creating incentives for an exit that they can’t refuse,” he added, according to the report.

Friedrich’s ministry isn’t involved in the response to the eurozone crisis. Other officials quickly dismissed the idea of Greece leaving the euro and said they expect the minister will vote for the bailout on Monday.

Meanwhile, Greek MPs are due to vote on 3.2 billion euros of budget cuts on Tuesday. This includes cuts to basic and auxiliary pensions.

Greece is aiming to complete a series of so-called prior actions agreed with the EU and IMF before the European Union leaders’ summit later this week.

[Associated Press & Kathimerini English Edition]

ekathimerini.com , Monday February 27, 2012 (11:40)  
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