For the best part of a decade, Greece has wanted to become a “normal” country, and late on Thursday it appeared to begin that process, after creditors agreed to disburse €8.5bn (£7.4bn) of bailout funds aimed at putting the debt-stricken nation back on the road to recovery.
The money, signed off after months of disagreement between the European Union and International Monetary Fund over how to reduce Athens’ staggering debt pile, will be released in July, once European parliaments ratify the deal.
Around €7.4bn will be initially disbursed so that Greece can honour debt repayments that mature mostly to the European Central Bank. The rest will be handed over once creditors are satisfied that the nation has complied with reforms.
“I am pleased to announce that we have achieved an agreement on all elements,” Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem announced after a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg. The 19-nation bloc, he said, had also agreed that Greece could get further help with making its debt sustainable, including the possibility of extending repayments by 15 years and linking them to growth rates.
The deal – though far short of the debt forgiveness prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist-led government had hoped for – was greeted with jubilation. “There is now light at the end of the tunnel,” the finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, told reporters, insisting that it provided the clarity Athens had long sought. “We didn’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”
The government said Greece had finally got what it wanted. In the form of “a clear commitment” that Athens would complete its current bailout programme next summer and ultimately retap capital markets. Lenders had also agreed to reduce the primary budget surplus from 3.5% to 2% as of 2023.