German parliament approves bailout fund
The German parliament voted overwhelmingly to grant extraordinary powers to a European bailout fund that will help pull the continent back from the brink of collapse - for a while anyway.
The expansion of powers for the bailout fund will go forward if six other euro area countries approve it over the coming weeks. But Merkel may have little room to maneuver in pushing for further measures that would increase Germany's commitments to helping its troubled fellow euro-users.
Merkel said this week that a July agreement with Greece on a second bailout may have to be renegotiated based on the findings of an inspection team from the International Monetary Fund and other creditors that arrived in Athens on Thursday. Her flexibility may be limited by the parliamentary vote.
"We are in an exceptionally difficult situation, because the financial markets remain extremely uncertain," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in parliament ahead of the vote, in a bid to win support for the measures.
But events have outstripped the slow pace of the approvals. Greece now appears as though it will need far more assistance than leaders had hoped in the summer when the plan was approved. And should a series of large economies need help, the money that they have committed would presumably be imperiled, meaning that the fund would not be enough to assist them anyway.
The Greek bailout plan (#2) envisioned $109 billion. Inspectors from the IMF and ECB are now looking at how badly the Greek government has botched things up and how much they will need to remain a civilized country and not an economic basket case.
That's why this latest bailout won't be enough. It all hinges on Greece - the entire stability of the Eurozone depends on Greece remaining above water. If they go under, the contagion will spread and catastrophe will be the result. They will continue to pour money into Greek coffers because it's all they can do. Only Greece can reform its economy and they don't have the political will to do so.
Eventually, they will have to repeat this entire exercise. Except, next time, the Germans may not be as accommodating.