BERLIN, May 3 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has pledged to contribute about 22 billion euros to an aid package for debt-stricken Greece, dropping earlier resistance to help.
Following are extracts from Monday editorials and articles in influential German newspapers on Greece and the euro zone crisis:
BILD (Centre-right, mass-circulation)
Broke Greece gets the fattest cheque in history
Handelsblatt ran a cover article that included a four-page spread of some two dozen private investors explaining why they would buy Greek bonds. The lead editorial, entitled Germany is helping, said a Greek withdrawal from the euro zone would be a major failure and threaten the currency union's very existence.
The Athens government has given a sign that earns respect with its austerity plan. The Greeks are sinners, but repentant sinners. The aid package agreed by the international community over the weekend will pick up the bill.
But states alone cannot save Greece. Stabilisation will only come when the country can finance itself freely on capital markets. A contribution is being sought from the large banks. A contribution is also being asked of European citizens -- an advance above all in trust. To this end we have launched our initiative 'I buy Greek bonds'. It is about giving a sign of joint responsibility.
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG (conservative) Greece has agreed an austerity programme with the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF which clears the way to a coordinated European aid programme.
Many German lawmakers will agree to the Greek aid package only with clenched teeth -- both for domestic reasons and in principle... But the time for thinking about how to tackle the euro zone's first big crisis is over.
Looking ahead, two difficulties make it questionable as to whether the Greek aid can be 'sustainable'.
One is the internal situation of Greece... What will happen, what can the EU do if the Greek cuts are 'not politically doable'?
Secondly, the Stability and Growth Pact ... it is obvious that tougher rules are needed. That would require agreement from some countries that are affected. The Greek disaster and German hesitation should teach us something. Otherwise it could be a case of after the crisis being before the next crisis.
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG (Centre-left)
Greece's debt problems have brought European banks and insurers into a predicament. If Athens collapses under the weight of its debts, they will face drastic write-downs. German banks alone have lent around 45 billion dollars to Athens, and in Europe as a whole, 189 billion dollars are at stake. Banks are therefore among those who stand most to profit from the emergency aid for Greece. The lion's share of the rescue credit will flow into their coffers.
However, it is not a good idea for Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to call upon bank managers to volunteer aid. Supposedly they should prove their confidence in the country by owning and buying more Greek bonds. But financial markets are immune to such symbolical actions. They only care about whether Greece manages to get its budget problems under control in the long term. If it becomes clear that Athens is not up to the job and eventually chooses bankruptcy through debt restructuring, Berlin will be in a tricky situation. If politicians have lured banks to buy Greek bonds with the promise of five percent rates and a state guarantee -- they will have difficulty talking themselves out of their duty.
Bankers would do better to face up to the facts. Some banks have only just managed to avoid death from mortgage backed derivatives through intensive state medicine. Strenuously, they are building up their capital again. And now are they are faced with a second, much greater risk, that of the bankruptcy of over-indebted countries. Banks should not load themselves up with even more questionable securities. (Compiled by Sarah Marsh, Madeline Chambers and Brian Rohan)