Merkel faces treacherous Greece vote in Bundestag

Many Bundestag members will have to break off their vacations for an extraordinary vote scheduled for Friday (17 July) over Greek bailout negotiations. [heipei/Flickr]

Following the decision in Brussels on Monday (13 July) to negotiate a third Greek bailout, the Bundestag will vote on Friday (17 July) on a mandate for the German government. Approval is not assured. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Though a majority among the Bundestag’s 631 MPs seems relatively certain, the upcoming vote is a treacherous one for Angela Merkel. Resentment within her own centre-right alliance is high, as is the risk that many will vote “no” on the measure.

“The package is neither credible nor viable,” centre-right MP Klaus-Peter Willsch told Tagesspiegel.

MPs from the larger of the two centre-right parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Wolfgang Bosbach and Willsch announced their intentions to vote “no” on Friday, just as they have in previous votes regarding Greek aid. 

Still, most of the Bundestag’s centre-right, Social Democrats and Greens are expected to vote “yes” on a mandate the German government needs for negotiations on a third bailout for Greece. The Left Party is expected to reject the plan. In a second vote, the Bundestag would later have to agree to the new assistance programme.

The agreement established on Monday (13 July) morning in Brussels is a further attempt to “patch-up cracks in the system with a lot of money”, Willsch said. Among other things, he criticised the scope of the planned €50 billion trust fund. This was already recorded as a privatisation target in the first bailout package, but not even 10% of it was actually achieved.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, the deputy chair of the centre-right group in the Bundestag, expressed his doubts over reform pledges from Greece’s left-wing government.

“I do not believe one word the Greek communists say anymore,” Friedrich told Bild.

Merkel backed by centre-right leadership

Meanwhile, leaders within the CDU and the centre-right group in the Bundestag have moved to back the negotiated Greece package and assured the Chancellor of their support in the upcoming vote.

“On the national board, it was clear that the board stands behind Merkel on this issue and supports her,” said CDU Secretary-General Peter Tauber on Monday after committee meetings in Berlin.

Applause for the Chancellor in a meeting of CDU leaders was “long-lasting”, the Secretary-General confirmed. There was one comment made which Tauber said he would “interpret as critical” and “very, very many” comments in support.

According to sources within the party, Volker Kauder, head of the centre-right group, also agreed to encourage the CDU/CSU parliamentary group to vote in favour of commencing formal negotiations over a third bailout for Greece.

He emphasised that this is not about a “fundraising package” for Athens, sources indicated. More importantly, the package contains “far-reaching structural reforms”. In addition, Kauder said, Europe has been successfully “held together”.

After an agreement among eurozone countries early Monday morning in Brussels, Merkel said she could recommend “with full conviction” that the Bundestag approve the measure. But the government will not request a vote from Bundestag members, she indicated, before the parliament in Athens has confirmed the entire programme determined in negotiations and has passed a set of concrete reforms. This is expected to occur by Wednesday (15 July).

According to sources within the coalition, the president of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert (CDU) announced that a special session of parliament is planned to begin at 10 a.m. on Friday. The day before, Bundestag parliamentary groups are expected to hold meetings.

Some MPs will have to break off their vacations to come back to Berlin for the vote. Bundestag members have been on summer break since the beginning of July.

The centre-right CDU/CSU group scheduled a meeting for Thursday (16 July) evening. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) informed MPs via text message to be prepared for a plenary meeting on Friday.

Greece’s leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to tough reforms after 17 hours of gruelling negotiations in return for a three-year bailout worth up to €86 billion.

If approved, this will be the third rescue programme for Greece in five years. It will be managed by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the eurozone permanent crisis resolution fund that was initially set up five years ago in an effort to save Athens from bankruptcy.

“There won’t be a Grexit,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission after all-night discussions came to a close on Monday 9:00 AM Brussels time.

>> Read: Eurozone reaches ‘laborious’ tentative deal on Greece

  • Friday (17 July): Bundestag votes over the new Greek bailout plan. The special session is planned to begin at 10 a.m.

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