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Greece to get next bailout loans by end of month

Published: Tuesday, April 1 2014 8:06 a.m. MDT

President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi arrives at Zappeion hall to attend a Eurogroup meeting, in Athens on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.  Finance ministers from the eurozone and the wider European Union are gathering in Athens amid tight security, with Greece hoping for a gesture of support for the release of long-delayed funds from the country's multi-billion-euro bailout.  (Kostas Tsironis, Associated Press) President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi arrives at Zappeion hall to attend a Eurogroup meeting, in Athens on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Finance ministers from the eurozone and the wider European Union are gathering in Athens amid tight security, with Greece hoping for a gesture of support for the release of long-delayed funds from the country's multi-billion-euro bailout. (Kostas Tsironis, Associated Press)

ATHENS, Greece — Greece will start receiving its next 8.3 billion euros ($11.4 billion) in bailout loans at the end of the month, eurozone finance ministers said Tuesday, citing progress after "many painful years" of reforms.

The statement came after the finance ministers from the 18 countries that use the euro met in Athens under tight security, with protests banned in a large part of the city center. Unions and political youth groups plan demonstrations just outside the exclusion zone in the evening.

Greece, which has suffered the deepest and most prolonged financial crisis in the eurozone, has been dependent on rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010. In return it has pledged a series of reforms, but has often come under criticism for being slow in implementing them and missing fiscal targets.

A police officer stands in front of  Zappeion hall during  a Eurogroup meeting, in Athens on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.  Finance ministers from the eurozone and the wider European Union are gathering in Athens amid tight security, with Greece hoping for a gesture of support for the release of long-delayed funds from the country's multi-billion-euro bailout.  (Kostas Tsironis, Associated Press) A police officer stands in front of Zappeion hall during a Eurogroup meeting, in Athens on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Finance ministers from the eurozone and the wider European Union are gathering in Athens amid tight security, with Greece hoping for a gesture of support for the release of long-delayed funds from the country's multi-billion-euro bailout. (Kostas Tsironis, Associated Press)

Tuesday's approval of the next installment of bailout loans comes after the completion of a tortuous, months-long debt inspection by the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission.

"This has been an arduous process but we have now a positive outcome," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the meetings of the eurozone's finance ministers known as the Eurogroup.

The funds are to be disbursed in three parts, with the first 6.3 billion euros to be paid at the end of April, in time for Greece to meet a bond redemption in May, Dijsselbloem said.

Payouts of 1 billion euros each would be made in June and July, linked to the implementation of targets Greece has agreed to. The parliaments of some of the 18 eurozone countries must ratify the payments before they are actually made, but the Eurogroup's decision is key to the process.

A Police special forces' sniper stands on the rooftop of  Zappeion during a Eurogroup meeting, in Athens on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.  Finance ministers from the eurozone and the wider European Union are gathering in Athens amid tight security, with Greece hoping for a gesture of support for the release of long-delayed funds from the country's multi-billion-euro bailout.  (Kostas Tsironis, Associated Press) A Police special forces' sniper stands on the rooftop of Zappeion during a Eurogroup meeting, in Athens on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Finance ministers from the eurozone and the wider European Union are gathering in Athens amid tight security, with Greece hoping for a gesture of support for the release of long-delayed funds from the country's multi-billion-euro bailout. (Kostas Tsironis, Associated Press)

The amount does not include the IMF's portion of the installment, which is paid separately.

Altogether, Greece has already received more than 200 billion euros in bailout loans, out of a total of 240 billion euros it has been promised. The bailout program, including the regular reviews of its reforms, will finish at the end of 2014, though the IMF will continue paying some loans until 2016.

The ministers also discussed Portugal, another eurozone country which has been in a bailout program, but is due to exit it in mid-May.

They said the review of its reforms was still ongoing and that a decision was expected to be taken on April 24 for the disbursement of its last loan installment. It is still not clear whether Portugal will need an additional credit backstop once it exits its bailout program.

Its economy has improved significantly in recent months, with both the budget deficit and unemployment rate dropping.

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem arrives for a press conference after a Eurogroup meeting at Zappeion Hall in Athens, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Finance ministers from the eurozone and the wider European Union are gathering in Athens amid tight security, with Greece hoping for a gesture of support for the release of long-delayed funds from the country's multi-billion-euro bailout.  (Kostas Tsironis, Associated Press) Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem arrives for a press conference after a Eurogroup meeting at Zappeion Hall in Athens, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Finance ministers from the eurozone and the wider European Union are gathering in Athens amid tight security, with Greece hoping for a gesture of support for the release of long-delayed funds from the country's multi-billion-euro bailout. (Kostas Tsironis, Associated Press)

The Eurogroup meeting is to be followed by a broader gathering of all European Union finance ministers later in the day and on Wednesday. Those talks will center, among other things, on the social impact of the economic crisis, the EU's growth and financial stability, and the banking union.

Associated Press reporter Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed.

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