June 23, 2018
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German lawmakers approve new Greek bailout

By GEIR MOULSON, the Associated Press

BERLIN — The German parliament approved a second, 130 billion euro loan package for Greece on Monday after Chancellor Angela Merkel warned lawmakers that it would be irresponsible to abandon the country to bankruptcy.

Although the motion was always expected to be easily approved — the final tally Monday was 496-90 with five abstentions — the idea of bailing out Greece has remained very unpopular in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, among the public and many politicians.

“The road that lies in front of Greece is long and truly not without risk,” Merkel told lawmakers before the vote. “That also goes for the success of the new program — no one can give a 100 percent guarantee of success.”

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

Merkel, however, said it would be irresponsible to risk a Greek bankruptcy.

She acknowledged that some people ask “whether Greece isn’t a bottomless pit, a hopeless case, whether it wouldn’t be better for all if Greece reintroduced the drachma.”

But she insisted that “the opportunities outweigh the risks of turning away from Greece now — I believe these risks are incalculable and therefore irresponsible.”

“As chancellor of Germany, I should and sometimes must take risks, but I cannot embark on adventures,” Merkel said.

The rescue package is Greece’s second in less than two years and also involves private-sector investors accepting total losses of more than 70 percent on the bonds they hold, along with tough new austerity measures.

Greece has been surviving since May 2010 on an initial 110 billion euro package of rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

But more than two years of harsh austerity implemented to secure the rescue funds have left the economy in freefall, with businesses closing in the tens of thousands and unemployment at a record high 21 percent in November.

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