Dutch parliament backs Greek bailout package
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The Dutch prime minister on Wednesday won broad political support for the Greek bailout agreed last month by European leaders, an important test for the official vote due to take place in a few weeks' time.
Political support is crucial for the government, a minority coalition between the Liberal and Christian Democrat parties, because its key political ally, the Freedom Party, strongly opposes financial bailouts for troubled euro zone members.
Labour, the second-biggest party in the Dutch parliament, and two other opposition parties -- Democrats 66 and GreenLeft -- were satisfied, as expected, by explanations Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gave about the Greek rescue package after two days of debate in parliament.
"It is important that the euro zone is in a good shape. That is good for the citizens. That is what we support," Labour leader Job Cohen said in parliament.
Most big Dutch parties agreed with Franco-German plans presented on Tuesday for more fiscal convergence in the euro zone, especially the creation of a European fiscal authority than can sanction countries whose deficits or debt levels are too high.
"It is good that there is now a serious focus on budget discipline. Countries which make a mess of it have to face tough and enforceable rules," Christian Democrat MP Elly Blanksma-van den Heuvel said.
Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager, who joined Rutte in parliament's debate, said he was against the Franco-German proposal for a financial transaction tax and all Franco-German proposals needed to be discussed broadly in Europe.
"It is of course not the case that those two countries can write the road ahead for the Netherlands. We are all going to discuss them (the proposals) in a democratic way in the euro group," De Jager said.
A majority of government and opposition parties called on Rutte to show more leadership in the euro zone debate and asked for a government view on the monetary union's future, how to enforce budget and debt rules, and how that can be controlled democratically.
The Freedom Party, led by anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders, reiterated its strong opposition to bailouts.
"Every country has to stand on its own two feet. That was the deal when we introduced the euro. Countries which have made a mess of it have to bear the consequences and eventually leave the euro," Freedom Party MP Teun van Dijck said.
The fiscally conservative Dutch had recently shown signs of bailout fatigue, with opinion polls showing fading public support for the huge rescue packages required by Greece, Ireland and Portugal. However, Dutch confidence in the euro increased to 41 percent this week from about 30 percent two weeks ago thanks to the Franco-German euro zone proposals, Dutch current affairs TV programme EenVandaag said on Wednesday, based on a sample of its viewers.
(Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block and Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Andrew Hay)
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