Jeroen Dijsselbloem.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

Eurozone finance ministers have paved the way for a new bailout payment to Greece of 7.5 billion euros (8.4 billion dollars), the head of their Eurogroup panel, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said Thursday.

Athens and its creditors spent months negotiating reforms and cost-cutting measures that would allow money to continue flowing from Greece's third, 86-billion-euro bailout, which was agreed to last year. Only 2 billion euros have been paid out so far.

The new disbursement will provide "oxygen" for the Greek economy, EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said. "We are on the right track," he added.

But Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said his country still had a long way to go.

"The Greek people have suffered a great deal over the last five, six years and it's not obvious that the successes are in sight yet," he told journalists in Luxembourg.

Following the go-ahead from finance ministers, the eurozone bailout fund is expected to make a final decision Friday on the disbursement, with a view to transferring the money early next week, according to the head of the fund, Klaus Regling.

The payment is part of a 10.3-billion-euro tranche the Eurogroup agreed to in principle last month. The money is needed to prevent the cash-strapped country from returning to the brink of bankruptcy.

Greece has to make more than 3 billion euros in debt payments in July alone.

The remaining 2.8 billion euros of the bailout tranche will be paid later this year, once Athens has carried out further reforms in areas including privatization, bank governance and the energy sector.

Last month, the Eurogroup also laid out a series of debt relief measures for Greece, aimed at securing the involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"We are clearly very encouraged by the agreement that was reached between the European partners and Greece," said IMF chief Christine Lagarde, who took part in the Luxembourg talks.

"For us to be engaged under a programme, a debt operation would have to be assessed on the basis of a new debt sustainability analysis," she added, noting that additional reforms would have to take place first.

The Washington-based fund hopes to reach a decision on its involvement by the end of the year, a spokesman said.

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