Eurozone approves money for Greece
Greece has avoided imminent bankruptcy after its international creditors finally agreed to vital loans but its economic distress is still likely to drag on for years.
After three weeks of negotiations, Greece's euro partners and the International Monetary Fund agreed to release the payments and introduce measures designed to reduce the country's massive debts to a more manageable level within a decade. These include reducing the interest rates Greece has to pay on the loans and a bond buyback program.
Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras hailed the agreement as a victory that heralds "a new day for all Greeks," but the reaction in the markets was more cautious.
For three years, Greece has been struggling to convince markets as well as its creditors that it can get a grip on its public finances, which spiralled out of control. The country is predicted to enter its sixth year of recession and is weighed down by an unemployment rate of 25%.
The troika of the European Central Bank, IMF and the European Commission has twice agreed to bail out Greece. In return Greece has had to impose several rounds of austerity measures and submit its economy to scrutiny.
Without the bailout money, the country would be staring bankruptcy in the face together with a possible exit from the 17-country eurozone, with potentially chaotic repercussions for the world economy.
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said the deal was "very important for it keeps Greece in the euro, offers it a significant opportunity to exit the vicious cycle of recession and over-indebtedness, and contributes to its debt reduction."
But opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, whose Radical Left Coalition wants Greece to scrap its bailout commitments, accused the conservative-led governing coalition of failing to defend the country's interests.
The meeting in Brussels was the third time in the last two weeks that eurozone finance ministers had tried to hammer out a deal.
The main aim of the bailout program is to right Greece's economy and get it to a point where it can independently raise money on the debt markets once the bailout loans start to run out at the end of 2014.