* 96 out of 150 members of parliament vote in favor
* Malta, Slovakia still to vote on wider EFSF powers
(Updates with result of vote, quotes)
By Aaron Gray-Block and Greg Roumeliotis
THE HAGUE, Oct 6 The Dutch parliament approved
extending the powers of the euro zone's rescue fund in a
crucial vote on Thursday, leaving Slovakia and Malta as the
last two euro zone members whose legislatures have yet to
approve the scheme.
The vote in favour of widening the role of the European
Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), as agreed by European
leaders in July, is considered an essential move for
stabilising financial markets. For details, see
"The support was very broad. That is very important for the
government, obviously because we are minority government," the
Dutch finance minister, Jan Kees de Jager, said. "Now we can go
forward in Europe."
The minority coalition government, composed of the Liberal
and Christian Democrat parties, secured a majority with the
help of the biggest opposition party, Labour, which is also
pro-Europe. The government's main ally, Geert Wilders' populist
Freedom Party, is firmly opposed to bailouts.
In the course of an 11-hour parliamentary debate on the
rescue fund and other issues, de Jager stressed the government
will listen to the conditions demanded by the parliament and
that any changes to the EFSF will be presented to the
parliament for approval.
"In principle, for important decisions in the EFSF .
unanimity is required," de Jager said, as he tried to soothe
concerns that the Netherlands would be required to continue
stumping up money for ailing peripheral euro zone members.
Sylvester Eijffinger, financial economics professor at
Tilburg University, said: "The Dutch parliament was aware of
its responsibility of keeping the euro zone alive. But a new
vote asking for more money for euro zone rescue funds would be
much more difficult for the Netherlands."
A succession of opinion polls has shown that public backing
for euro zone bailouts is wearing thin.
In a Maurice de Hond poll published last month, 63 percent
of those surveyed said the Netherlands should refuse to
continue to cooperate in supporting Greece, up from 56 percent
in May. Half of those polled regretted giving up the former
Dutch currency, the guilder, for the euro.
A fresh poll by Synovate, published just hours before
Thursday's vote, showed that almost half those surveyed expect
Greece to go bankrupt within six months; 54 percent said the
Netherlands should not give more aid to Greece.
More than six out of 10 Dutch people said they were worried
about the possible consequences of the sovereign debt crisis
for the Netherlands, and three out of 10 said they planned to
save more because of the crisis.
Several lawmakers expressed their concerns about the crisis
in the course of the debate.
"I just heard the minister say you don't solve a debt
crisis with more debt," said Teun van Dijck, from the
eurosceptic Freedom Party.
"What the emergency fund does is use a larger sack of money
to try and instill confidence in the financial markets and
prevent contagion. But we have seen in the past year and a half
that it has only stirred up a lack of trust and unrest in the
The parliament was widely expected to vote in favour,
especially after the Labour party reiterated its support this
"A very strong Europe is in the interests of all of us and
will certainly help us to remain prosperous," said Christian
Democrat MP Elly Blanksma before the vote.
"Unfortunately, Europe is not in good shape, a number of
countries, but also a number of banks are not in good shape. We
need to be alert, and restoring confidence in countries and the
financial markets must take priority. It's all hands on deck. I
urge all those involved to take responsibility," Blanksma
De Jager kicked off Thursday's debate by reiterating that
although euro zone members must stick to the budget rules,
failing to support Greece could worsen the crisis.
He stressed the Dutch government's demands that Europe
needs a budget tsar with the power to kick out those members of
the euro who do not abide by the rules.
"We need to have greater European powers to enforce the
budget rules that we have agreed upon and to deal with budget
sinners," de Jager said.
"It cannot happen again that Greece, Portugal or Ireland
spoil it for everyone else."
(Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block, Greg Roumeliotis; Editing by
Sara Webb and Leslie Adler)