Merkel Wins Expanded Eurofund
German lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly approved expanding the powers of the eurozone bailout fund, a major step toward tackling the sprawling debt crisis, in a vote that also helped strengthen Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government.
The measure had been largely expected to pass the lower house of parliament, but a lively debate ahead of the vote reflected how divided Germans remain over their role as Europe’s economic power.
Of 611 lawmakers present, 523 voted in favor, while 85 voted against it. Only three lawmakers abstained, meaning that Germany in the future will be guaranteeing loans to the bailout fund, the so-called European Financial Stability Facility, or EFSF, of up to euro211 billion, rather than euro123 billion so far.
The vote had highlighted tensions in Merkel’s center-right coalition that was strained by threats of dissent from many members who balked at the cost of propping up the eurozone’s strugglers.
Opposition leaders had said going in that if Merkel’s coalition has to rely on their votes, it would be a sign that her strife-prone and increasingly unpopular government is finished.
Yet after a night of intense lobbying, a majority of coalition members - 315 - voted in favor of the measure, enough to have ensured its passage even without opposition support.