German conservative quits after refusing to back Greek aid extension

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 31, 2015 8:30 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - A prominent Eurosceptic in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc resigned on Tuesday, saying he had come under pressure to back an extension of Greece's bailout, becoming first high-profile German politician to do so.

Peter Gauweiler, a senior member of Merkel's Bavarian allies, the Christian Social (CSU), and an outspoken critic of aid to Greece, has led efforts to block euro zone bailouts and the European Central Bank's bond-buying program in court.

The 65-year-old said in a statement that he was resigning as a vice-chairman of the CSU and also giving up his mandate for the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

"I was publicly asked, because I am vice-chairman of the CSU, to vote in the Bundestag for the opposite of what I have represented in front of the Constitutional Court and to my voters for years," Gauweiler said.

He added that this was not compatible with his understanding of a member of parliament's role.

Gauweiler had been strongly criticized by CSU leader Horst Seehofer for voting in February against the extension of financial aid for Greece - which was approved by the German parliament, albeit with a record number of dissenters from Merkel's conservatives.

Seehofer said he respected Gauweiler's decision to resign and thanked him for the work he had done for the CSU.

The CSU has consistently taken a tougher stance than Merkel of Greece and its members include several high profile critics.

(Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Michael Nienaber and Raissa Kasolowsky)