German lawmakers approved an extension of Greece’s bailout today (February 27th), with 542 deputies voting for and 32 voted against. Thirteen abstained. "It’s not about new billions for Greece, it’s not about any change in the program," said finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble at the Bundestag, in Berlin. "It’s about offering more time to allow this program to be completed successfully."
"We Germans more than all others will only have a positive future if European unity is upheld, only if we stand together," he added. “We Germans need to do everything to hold Europe together and to lead together." Greece's financial rescue is now extended by four months, averting bankruptcy and capital controls while ensuring banks will have enough ressources.
However, the Greek government must present economic reform measures today that are deemed acceptable by creditors and rooted in Greece's previously enacted bailout agreement. It faces an April deadline for convincing Germany and other eurozone partners that they are serious about their reform agenda.
Athens risks running out of cash and having no other option but to exit from the single currency bloc. Mr Schaeuble sought to reassure the German parliament that no new aid was at stake for Greece. He said solidarity among members of the single currency "doesn't mean you can blackmail each other".
Today's vote led to demonstrations in Athens against the left-right coalition government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The agreement has sparked dissent within Mr Tsipras' own party and accusations by some that the government is going back on pre-election promises.
The leftist party Syriza was elected on January 25th on a promise to write off part of the country's debt and end tough austerity measures. Greece originally asked for a six-month assistance package, rather than a renewal of the existing deal. But Germany took a tough stance and rejected the request, calling it "no substantial proposal for a solution".
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