German lawmakers gave their go ahead on Friday for the euro zone to negotiate a third bailout for Greece, heeding a warning from Chancellor Angela Merkel that the alternative to a deal with Athens was chaos.
The Bundestag lower house of parliament, whose backing is essential for the talks to start, decisively approved the move by 439 votes to 119, with 40 abstentions.
Popular misgivings run deep in Germany, the euro zone country which has already contributed most to Greece’s two bailouts since 2010, about funneling yet more aid to Athens.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has questioned whether a new program will succeed, although the creditors’ offer to Athens includes the conditions for more austerity and economic reform that Berlin had demanded.
But Merkel argued for negotiating a new deal to prevent a Greek exit from the euro – the “Grexit” that might undermine the entire currency union – and said suggestions Athens might temporarily leave the euro wouldn’t work.
“The alternative to this agreement would not be a ‘time-out’ from the euro … but rather predictable chaos,” she told the Bundestag. “We would be grossly negligent, and act irresponsibly, if we didn’t at least attempt this way.”