German Bundestag approves mandate to negotiate

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in the German Bundestag.

"We want Greece to stay in the euro zone," says Chancellor

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

With a clear majority, the German Bundestag has given the go-ahead for negotiations on a third economic assistance programme for Greece. In her speech Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the Bundestag to approve the motion. Following tough negotiations with the Greek government, the euro-zone states have now put in place the conditions that will enable Greece to remain part of the euro zone, said Angela Merkel. Germany would be grossly negligent, if it did not at least try this path, declared the Chancellor.

Hard for Greece and hard for Europe

Angela Merkel vehemently rejected the alternative "of bending our rules and our treaties until they are no longer worth anything". Any procedure of this sort, with the unconditional continuation of assistance and a "debt haircut" would be the end of Europe as a community governed by the rule of law and common rights. Europe, she said has a common destiny but is also a community of shared rules, rights and responsibilities. The enormous efforts of the Greeks will now be matched by the enormous solidarity demonstrated by the rest of Europe.

The alternative, Greece leaving the euro zone, is no solution, she added. "This could result in chaos and violence in Greece," declared the Chancellor. She continued, "This would mark the end of Europe as a community of shared responsibility."

Sigmar Gabriel calls for changes

Greece must embrace dramatic changes, demanded Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel during the debate. Greece is fighting to assert itself. It no longer wants to depend on hand-outs.

Sigmar Gabriel criticised "the old irresponsible elite" in Greece, corruption, clientelism and the lack of properly functioning state structures. "Europe must not become a safe haven for antisocial, super-wealthy Greeks," said the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs.

Humanitarian considerations are the best argument

Sigmar Gabriel warned of the dangers of dividing Europe. That is why, he said, it is good that Germany and France determinedly took the lead together in the Brussels negotiations.

Humanitarian considerations are the best argument for a third assistance package for Greece, added Sigmar Gabriel. "We don’t want to see starving children, or pensioners reduced to begging on the streets." The Greeks are our neighbours. He called on German welfare associations to organise joint aid programmes in Greece, and on German businesses and local authorities to get involved.

Greece votes for reforms

On 15 July the Greek parliament adopted the package of austerity and reform measures demanded by the country’s international creditors, paving the way for negotiations on a third assistance programme under the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

The German Bundestag convened for a special session because the German government may only negotiate further financial assistance under the ESM with the approval of the parliament.