BRUSSELS – Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras was upbeat in Brussels late on Monday following a meeting of eurozone finance ministers, who approved the release of a further 9.2 billion euros in bailout funding for the debt-wracked country, adding however, that “the race continues and the road is long.”
“Greece was not a star today,” Stournaras said. “The discussion was very brief on our country. The disbursement of the next aid tranche was approved,” Stournaras said. “This was made possible because Greece has satisfied all the prior actions for January. Note was also taken of the significant progress the country has made in meeting its commitments. But the race continues and the road is long.”
Greek Parliament last week voted through a draft law containing a set of so-called “prior actions” demanded by the troika in order for further bailout funding to be released. These include laws relating to Greece’s amended bailout agreement, tighter fiscal control over ministries and the deregulation of some sectors of the economy.
Commenting on the departure from the helm of the Eurogroup of Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Stournaras said that he thanked him warmly “on behalf of all of Greece” for the services he offered in maintaining the unity of the eurozone and in helping Greece.
In his last comment as Eurogroup chief, Juncker stressed the need for the eurozone to protect its periphery members.
“I have great admiration and love for Greece and great admiration for Ireland and Portugal,” he said. “I hope those countries will get recompense.”
Juncker is being replaced by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister.
“I would like to hope that he will respond to the challenges of the times,” Stournaras said of Dijsselbloem’s appointment, adding that his Dutch colleague has so far taken a moderate stance toward Greece.
The head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), Klaus Regling confirmed that Athens will receive 2 billion of the 9.2-billion-euro tranche within a week to cover budgetary expenses as well as guarantees for the remaining 7.2 billion euros, which will be used for the recapitalization of the country’s banks.
Regling said that Athens has met all the requirements for the money to be transferred into Greece’s special account.
Stournaras also appeared hopeful that everything was on course for Greece receiving the next tranche of bailout funding in February.