BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Sunday he was not opposed to an open discussion in parliament on the euro zone’s decision to give Greece a new credit lifeline - even though internal party opposition may embarrass Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party just months before the election.
Speaking on ARD TV’s “Bericht aus Berlin”, Schaeuble noted the parliamentary budget committee could by itself approve the 8.5 billion euro ($9.51 billion) loan to Greece, meaning a full debate in parliament was not required.
“I don’t have any difficulty at all talking openly about it,” Schaeuble said when asked if the full parliament would discuss the loan to Greece as the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) have demanded.
But he said on June 16 that calls from a senior lawmaker in the SPD, Johannes Kahrs, for a full debate on the deal for Greece could unsettle financial markets.
Schaeuble said he had talked to conservative lawmakers in parliament about the deal and the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that was less than conservatives had hoped for, but that there had hardly been any questions about it.
Some of Merkel’s own conservatives have in the past opposed aid to Greece. Sixty-three of the 309 members of her conservative parliamentary group voted against the third bailout for Greece in August 2015. There were three abstentions.
The parliamentary budget committee, which postponed a meeting on the issue from last Wednesday to next week, has to decide if the full house has to approve the disbursement of a fresh tranche that was agreed to by euro zone finance ministers.
Schaeuble said there were discrepancies between Germany, EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund on whether Greece’s debt was sustainable.
Euro zone ministers, under pressure from the IMF, said they could in 2018 extend the average maturities of Greek loans and grace periods by up to 15 years. The average maturity now is 30 years.
But this was not enough for either the IMF or the ECB, with the Fund deciding to wait with disbursements to Greece until the euro zone provides more clarity on debt relief.
SPD lawmaker Kahrs believes the IMF’s decision to delay its own disbursements despite joining the bailout is a major change to the deal and needs the approval of the whole German parliament.
Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum