Back Greek talks or face chaos, Merkel tells German lawmakers

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Chancellor Angela Merkel called on German lawmakers on Friday to back negotiations for a third Greek bailout, saying the alternative was chaos and that suggestions Athens might leave the euro temporarily wouldn’t work.

Merkel was addressing parliament, which is expected to give its clear backing for the euro zone to start talks on the new aid programme, even though Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has questioned whether it will succeed.

Schaeuble himself has suggested Greece might be better off taking a “time-out” from the euro zone to sort out its daunting economic problems.

But Merkel argued strongly for negotiating a new deal with Greece to prevent the country’s exit from the euro – the “Grexit” that might undermine the entire currency union.

“The alternative to this agreement would not be a ‘time-out’ from the euro … but rather predictable chaos,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house. “We would be grossly negligent, and act irresponsibly, if we didn’t at least attempt this way.”

Popular misgivings run deep in Germany, the euro zone country which has contributed most to Greece’s two bailouts since 2010, about funnelling yet more aid to Athens.

But Merkel expressed scepticism that a temporary Greek departure from the common currency would solve the problem, saying neither Greece nor the other 18 euro zone member countries were willing to accept the idea. “Therefore this way was not viable,” she said.

Nevertheless Merkel thanked Schaeuble – her most powerful ally – for his work in the long, gruelling talks which produced the new bailout plan last week. Lawmakers gave him resounding applause. Schaeuble nodded and gave a wry smile.