BERLIN, Feb 28: German lawmakers approved a hard-won bailout
extension for Greece's new anti-austerity government in a move Berlin's finance chief called "not easy" but necessary, keeping a crucial lifeline open to Athens.
Greece's left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed the German vote Friday as "a political act of common sense and democracy", saying there would be no third bailout for his country and pledging to get to work on reforms.
He promised that now his month-old government would "start working hard, in order to change Greece within a Europe that changes direction".
The four-month bailout extension for Greece, approved by eurozone finance ministers Tuesday, averts a potentially calamitous end-February deadline that could have seen Athens default and exit from the euro.
With worsening Greek economic data heightening the pressure, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had vigorously urged MPs to support giving Athens the additional 'Turned a new page' Schaeuble, who has traded barbs with Athens in recent weeks, sought to reassure lawmakers Germany would not have to stump up "new billions" or change the bailout conditions but merely grant "more time to successfully conclude" the plan adopted for Athens in 2012.
As expected, the extension won overwhelming support in the lower house where Chancellor Angela Merkel's left-right coalition has a commanding majority.
While Schaeuble described the extension as an act of "solidarity" toward an EU member in need, Tsipras said that "Europe has now recognised that Greece has turned a new page".
"This is the time for the reforms that our country needs and which no
government ever sought, because there were commitments with powerful interests," he told Euronews in an interview.
In Athens Tsipras announced that the first legislation by his "government of social salvation" aimed at easing the "humanitarian crisis" caused by years of cuts would be put to parliament early next week.
This will include providing free electricity for 300,000 poor families and
housing for 30,000 people, debt relief, measures to protect "hundreds of thousands" at risk at losing their homes and scrapping a controversial goldmine project, he said.
He added there would be no more agreements of austerity cuts in exchange for further financial support. "The 'memoranda' are finished," he said, referring to the international bailouts Greece received in 2010 and 2012.
To help replenish state coffers, a bill will also be tabled next week to encourage taxpayers to pay part of their arrears, which currently stand at 76 billion euros ($85 billion) and rising.
The new Greek government has walked a fine line between pledging to meet the demands of international creditors and maintaining the support of voters who swept them to power on promises of ending years of hated austerity. ?AFP