The Associated Press May 6, 2010, 12:56PM ET

Rush for euro-zone nations to approve Greece loans

Most of the 15 euro-zone nations are scrambling to approve the bailout of partner Greece in time for Friday evening's summit of government leaders, with the big contributors poised to be on time.

The euro-zone nations have pledged to contribute euro80 billion ($100 billion) of the euro110 billion ($140 billion) bailout plan for Greece over the next three years with the rest coming from the International Monetary Fund.

The 16 nations have pledged to make haste with the national approval of the funds and rescue package, hoping to have it finished for Friday's emergency summit. Major nations like Germany, France, Italy are likely to have concluded the process by then.

Crucially, the Greek parliament approved the Greek austerity bill, on which the whole program hinges, late Thursday despite major protests.

Germany, long Greece's toughest critic, was debating legislation that would provide the go-ahead to euro22.4 billion ($28.6 billion) in credit that Berlin wants to grant Athens.

It already passed the lower house's budget committee -- a day before a vote by the full house.

The coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel has a comfortable majority in parliament and could pass the law without opposition help. Nonetheless, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has asked the opposition for support.

"The markets will pay attention to how the help is being backed on a national level," Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. The Social Democrat opposition party is likely to abstain.

France, after Germany the No. 2 contributor to the plan with euro16.8 billion ($21.4 billion), already had the backing of the National Assembly since Monday and the Senate was expected to approve it late Thursday to finalize it. The two nations together already guarantee just under 50 percent of the euro-zone contribution.

In Italy, ministers are expected to approve an emergency decree during a Cabinet meeting on Friday for up to euro5.5 billion ($7 billion), almost a third of its share of euro14.7 billion ($18.7 billion). Finance Minister Giulio Tremtoni told parliament Thursday that the measure will not affect Italy's deficit, because it is a loan.

Spain, targeted itself by recent market speculation in the wake of the Greek bailout, plans to approve it early Friday by decree in a weekly Cabinet meeting, after which it must be approved by parliament -- most likely next week. Madrid is penciled in for euro9.8 billion ($12.5 billion).

Those four together almost provide 80 percent of the euro-zone loans.

Opposition has come from some small contributors.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico says he first wants to see that "Greece is doing its homework." Fico said it was unlikely that Slovakia would provide its share of euro800 million ($1 billion) before the country's general election scheduled for June 12.

The Netherlands and Portugal are also set to approve it Friday.


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