Economy

Last year Athens agreed on its third EU-IMF bailout loan and is awaiting the green light from a meeting of eurozone finance ministers for the latest tranche of this money to be handed over
Payout comes a day after thousands protested in Athens over new cuts imposed in return for the bailout

Eurozone finance ministers agreed on Thursday to unlock 7.5 billion euros ($8.4 billion) in urgently needed cash for Greece, saving Athens financially for a few months.

"This is a welcome breath of oxygen for the Greek economy," said the European Union's top economic affairs official, Pierre Moscovici, after a meeting with the 19 ministers from the countries that use the euro.

The ministers met in Luxembourg and officially unblocked the money that will allow the Greek government to meet two huge debt payments to the European Central Bank next month.

The technical decision to disburse will be taken by senior officials on Friday, with money expected in the government coffers in Athens next week, said Klaus Regling, the head of the European Stability Mechanism that manages Greece's bailout payments.

Louisa Gouliamaki (AFP)

The ministers last month agreed in principle to unlock the aid, the windfall for completing the first formal review of its 86-billion-euro bailout program agreed last July.

But the leftist government in Athens still had to deliver on some last reforms, including a revamped plan on long-delayed privatizations.

The payout comes a day after thousands of Greeks protested in Athens over new cuts imposed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in return for the bailout.

Re-elected last year on a pledge to fight austerity, Tsipras instead brokered Greece's third bailout with its EU creditors that required fresh tax hikes and a controversial pension overhaul.

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