MPs vote to give Merkel broad mandate to boost EU fund

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German lawmakers voted overwhelmingly |to give Angela Merkel a broad mandate Wednesday to boost the firepower of the eurozone bailout fund, just hours ahead of an emergency EU summit to tackle the debt crisis.

Chancellor Merkel won the backing of 503 members of the 620-strong Bundestag lower house of parliament, while 89 members voted against and four abstained, during a special session in which she said the euro's weaknesses must be resolved "now or... never".

Afterwards, Merkel was due in Brussels where hopes were dimming that European leaders will come up with the answers to the eurozone debt crisis at a summit crucial for the global economy.

Among the key issues is how to bolster the firepower of the 440-billion-euro ($612 billion) eurozone fund, amid fears it would be insufficient if Italy is dragged into the mire.

Germany categorically rejects any role for the European Central Bank in the eurozone bailout fund, or any increase in the 211 billion euros Germany is due to provide the fund in debt guarantees.

"The fundamental weaknesses and holes in the construction of the economic and monetary union must either be addressed now or, I say, never," Merkel told German MPs earlier.

"And if we address them now, then we will have seized the opportunity this crisis presents us. Otherwise we will have failed," she said.

And she warned: "This is the greatest challenge the economic and monetary union has ever had to face."

Germany's Constitutional Court ruled in September that any future decisions on financial aid to eurozone countries must be approved by parliament's budgetary committee.

But in a surprise move it was announced Monday that the Bundestag as a whole would vote on the move.

© 2011 AFP

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