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Greece has 'come a long way' says Eurogroup president

GREECE HAS COME A LONG WAY SAYS EUROGROUP PRESIDENT

A proposal to drop Greece's "excessive deficit procedure" was described as a sign of the country's economic progress, according to Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Friday.

Speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, which was hosting a Eurogroup meeting, Dijsselbloem said institutions in Athens were already preparing the ground for a third review of the country's bailout program.

"A sign that Greece has come a long way is the proposal to abrogate the excessive deficit procedure, which we welcomed today" he noted.

However, he said more work needed to be done on several issues.

Greece will be required to complete 95 actions, many of which mean implementing legal changes taken up earlier during the bailout program.

The Dutch minister also conveyed eurozone ministers' "concerns" about ongoing legal proceedings in Greece on the prosecution of former ELSTAT (Independent Statistics Authority) chief Andreas Georgiou.

A Greek court August sentenced the former head of Greece's statistics agency to two years in jail, in absentia.

The Athens Appeal Court ruled Georgiou should have sought permission from ELSTAT's board of directors before he told EU authorities of the country's deficit figures for 2009.

The independence of courts and statistics were fundamental in a modern democracy and must be safeguarded by all, Dijsselbloem said.

- Market return

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici said Greece had made "a first step in order to return to the markets…this positive trend and confidence needs to be durable".

Moscovici said the third review mostly concerned the implementation of measures already agreed. The timetables that Greece must follow until the end of the program are currently being drawn up, he added.

"The aim is for Greece to exit the adjustment program," he told reporters.

Concluding, Moscovici underlined that all sides must meet their commitments, pointed out the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had initially agreed on the Greek program and that it was now time "to work on the measures for the debt".

However, Greek premier Alexis Tsipras, struck a bullish note earlier this month when he told a conference in Thessaloniki that the IMF must decide by the end of 2017 if it will participate in the funding of Greece's current bailout.

"We can live with or without the IMF presence," he told a press briefing at the Thessaloniki International Fair, a day after a major annual policy speech.

Tsipras added that Greece will be financially independent by 2018 and without supervision from its creditors.

He also said Greece was becoming a strategic partner of the most powerful countries, mentioning that in 2016, foreign direct investments hit a 10-year high and that his government expected further improvement in 2017.

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