Merkel breathes easily – for now – as MPs vote through EU bailout fund

Chancellor receives stronger than expected support from her coalition for bill which approves €211bn German contribution

Berlin

Angela Merkel survived the biggest political challenge of her chancellorship yesterday after she narrowly defeated a rebellion within her government and won approval for a hugely unpopular new EU bailout fund.

In a significant endorsement of Ms Merkel's authority, her coalition of conservatives and liberal Free Democrats secured a majority of 315 in Germany's 620-seat parliament in a crucial vote ratifying expansion of the European bailout fund with some €211bn (£183bn) of German taxpayers' money.

Herman Gröhe, deputy conservative leader, welcomed the result, saying: "The large parliamentary majority clearly demonstrates that Germany is committed to the euro and to protecting its currency."

With an estimated 80 per cent of German public opinion against the expanded bailout, the measure had been strongly opposed by rebel conservative and liberal MPs within Ms Merkel's coalition and the Chancellor was not sure of obtaining a majority from her MPs until votes were finally counted.

In the event, 15 of her coalition's 330 MPs voted against her. Although the outcome of the vote was not in doubt because opposition parties had agreed to back Ms Merkel, political observers had warned that failure to win a majority from her own MPs, would have put the future of her government at stake.

"This is a huge weight off my heart," Peter Altmaier, the conservatives' chief whip, said. "It sends a strong message to Europe, the markets, the US, to everyone."

Dissenters said the result showed that the EU was turning into a transfer union.

Yesterday's vote took place just 48 hours after the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou flew to Berlin to appeal for German help to solve his country's crippling debt problem.

As MPs gathered in Berlin's Reichstag parliament yesterday morning, protesters were out in force in Athens, where the "Troika" of inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission were due to arrive to assess Greece's progress in meeting its fiscal obligations to stem the eurozone crisis.

In the heated parliamentary debate before voting, Wolfgang Schaeuble, Ms Merkel's veteran Finance Minister, warned that failure to approve the package expanding the scope of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) could threaten both the euro and the European Union.

"We are in an extremely difficult situation, because the nervousness on the financial markets is great and this nervousness can have its effects on real economies," Mr Schaeuble warned. "Nobody is taking this decision easily."

Ms Merkel's handling of the euro crisis has been widely perceived as inept by German voters. Opinion polls have consistently shown a large majority opposed to spending large tranches of taxpayers' money on rescuing failed eurozone countries such as Greece.

As a result, the Chancellor's conservative and liberal coalition parties have suffered a string of humiliating defeats in key state elections throughout Germany this year. In polling in city state elections in Berlin earlier this month, the liberals won only 1.2 per cent of the vote and failed to enter parliament.

Opinion polls conducted before yesterday's crucial vote suggested that Ms Merkel's coalition would be easily ousted from government.

Yesterday's vote approved increasing the lending capacity of the EFSF from €250bn to €440bn. Seven more of the eurozone's 17 members still have to ratify the measure.

From the debate:

Those in favour...

Guido Westerwelle, liberal Foreign Minister: "The message to our European partners is: you can rely on Germany."

Volker Kauder, conservative parliamentary leader: "We are making a decision for the future of our country and for the future of Europe."

Peter Altmaier, conservative chief whip: "It sends a strong message to Europe, the markets, the US, to everyone."

... and those against

Frank Schaeffler, rebel liberal Free Democrat MP: "Expanding the bailout fund will make the situation worse for Greece."

Klaus-Peter Willsch, rebel conservative: "We are lending money which belongs to our grandchildren."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Controller - Response Centre

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Resource and Recruitment Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Resource and Recruitment Manage...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service Engineer - Doors / Windows

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist designer and ma...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn