Carsten Schneider: German government divided on Greece

Germany’s centre-right alliance is finding it difficult to agree on whether or not to send further aid to Greece, said SPD faction chair Carsten Schneider, who sees a significant gap between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Facing the possibility of a third bailout package for Greece, several Bundestag representatives from the centre-right have already indicated they would not agree to such a measure, if it came to a vote in the Bundestag.

“One can see that the centre-right alliance is divided, as well as the government,” said Carsten Schneider on Wednesday (10 June), on public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

The Social Democrat said the relationship between Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble is “almost like the relationship between Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Varoufakis”.

Not long ago, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras revoked Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ negotiation competences amid attempts to solve the conflict between Greece and its international creditors.

Schneider also said Merkel withdrew Schäuble’s negotiation mandate. Still, the SPD politician said he assumes the centre-right will stand by “their Chancellor in the end”.

“Otherwise this government would be at its end,” Schneider pointed out.

Already last week, Bild reported that Merkel had organised a high-level meeting with French President Francois Hollande, IMF director Christine Lagarde and other European leaders on the Greek crisis, without informing Schäuble ahead of time.

>>Read: Schäuble saved the Greek bailout extension, according to reports

The Finance Minister only heard about the meeting by chance, the newspaper continued. It cited an undisclosed high-level official from Schäuble’s ministry as saying,”that was a solo act of hers”.

The paper raises the question as to whether Schäuble may resign from his post. “The Bild report is nonsense,” reactions from government sources were cited as saying.

On Wednesday, vice chair of the centre-right faction Michael Fuchs warned his colleagues against prematurely deciding to oppose further payments. “I do not agree with making general statements like that,” he said on ZDF. In contrast to other centre-right MPs, he said he was prepared to agree to a third assistance package for Greece.

Overall, the centre-right’s support for Chancellor Merkel’s policy towards Greece is not at issue, he said, indicating that “the majority for the Chancellor is always there”.

Here, Fuchs was reacting to growing opposition among centre-right MPs to further aid for Greece. Several centre-right politicians who voted in favour of a second assistance package for Greece in the Bundestag said that they would say “No” to yet another one, according to a report in Bild on Wednesday.

“I can and will not vote in favour of permanent financing for a country unwilling to implement reforms,” said the Christian Social Union’s Michael Frieser, in Bild. Christian Democratic Union finance expert Frank Steffel said he could “not vote in favour of any further bailout policy” unless Greece “makes a sudden curve” in negotiations with the EU.

CDU politician Hendrik Hoppenstedt told Bild, “without significant reforms in Greece, I cannot agree to a third assistance package.” His colleague from the CSU made a similar argument, saying “if the Greeks do not deliver, then I cannot agree to more”.

Parliamentary chair of the centre-right faction, Michael Grosse-Brömer (CDU) advised his colleagues to be cautious. “Good representatives” are expected to wait for the basis of decision-making first, “so that they know what they are expected to vote on”, he said on n-tv. But such a bill does not exist yet, he stated. Apart from that, there “have always been colleagues who had concerns since the beginning of the debate”, Brömer pointed out.

For the time being, it remains unclear how the EU’s assistance for Greece will continue. If the ongoing bailout programme is up for reform, it would most likely be put to a vote in the Bundestag. However, an additional assistance programme would definitely require a parliamentary vote.

Germany's parliament approved an extension of Greece's bailout on 27 February after Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble, who has voiced doubts about whether Athens can be trusted, promised it would not be allowed to "blackmail" its euro zone partners.

With 542 lawmakers voting in favour, including almost all of Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition plus the opposition Greens, it was the biggest majority for any euro zone rescue package so far in the 631-seat chamber.

The Bundestag vote was the only major parliamentary hurdle for a four-month extension to the bailout programme for the most heavily-indebted country in the single currency zone.

Deutschlandfunk (German language): "Da ist viel Inszenierung dabei"

Bild Newspaper (German language): Es wird einsam um Merkel

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