ATHENS — Greece is set to receive the first instalment of its third multi-billion-euro bailout on Thursday, just as a key repayment to the European Central Bank falls due.
A source close to the matter said Greece would receive 23 billion euros (US$25.5 billion) on Thursday morning, allowing Athens to make a loan repayment of 3.4 billion euros due the same day to the European Central Bank (ECB).
Greece got the green light on Wednesday to start repaying its debts and reviving its economy after eurozone finance ministers formally approved the third reforms-for-rescue package of up to 86 billion euros.
The all-clear came after the new bailout was approved by European parliaments, including the Bundestag of Germany.
"This agreement provides perspective for the Greek economy and a basis for sustainable growth," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the so-called Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, vowing officials would monitor the process closely.
Pending endorsement from key national parliaments, Dijsselbloem and the other eurozone finance ministers had on August 14 approved the bailout to keep Greece in the single currency bloc, pay its bills and revive its shattered economy.
The German parliament voted by an overwhelming majority on Wednesday to back the third bailout, with Chancellor Angela Merkel spared a major rebellion of deputies opposing the aid.
Interrupting their holidays for the second time this summer to cast ballots on a Greek rescue, lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house approved the rescue plan by 453 votes to 113. Eighteen abstained.
European Parliament role?
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was on Wednesday mulling whether to hold early elections after the austerity bailout split his radical left Syriza party, leaving him powerless to push further reform bills through parliament.
A decision is expected next week.
Tsipras rode to power in January on a wave of popular anger against the tax hikes, spending cuts and reforms demanded by creditors in exchange for two previous bailouts costing 240 billion euros.
He has said that Greece's creditors – the European Union, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and the European Stability Mechanism – have agreed to discuss public debt relief measures when a first assessment of reform compliance is completed in November.
The Greek premier has also called for the European Parliament (EP) to join the quartet of creditors in overseeing the recently approved bailout deal.
The debt currently stands at 312.8 billion euros, the finance ministry said Wednesday. Thursday's initial 23-billion-euro payment will see 10 billion euros placed in a fund to recapitalise Greek banks, while another 13 billion euros will be partly used to pay back both the ECB and to cover an EU bridging loan of 7.16 billion euros, which was given in July to allow Athens to honour previous commitments to the ECB and the IMF.
The bailout accord goes far beyond economic management to include an extensive overhaul of Greece's health and social welfare systems plus its business practices and public administration.
Seemingly small details of daily life will also be affected by the new rules, from visits to the doctor to an extension of the expiry dates on pasteurised milk in supermarkets. — AFP