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Eurozone Approves Greek Overhaul Plan

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the Eurogroup (right) sits next to Roberto Gualtieri, the chairman of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, during a meeting Tuesday at the European Parliament in Brussels. The European Union's executive branch said the list of Greek reform measures for final approval of the extended rescue loans is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point.

European finance ministers have approved Greece's proposed economic reforms and agreed to extend financial assistance to the country by four months.

In a statement, the Eurogroup said it would begin "national procedures" – including parliamentary votes in some member states – to give the deal a final approval.

"We call on the Greek authorities to further develop and broaden the list of reform measures, based on the current arrangement, in close coordination with the institutions in order to allow for a speedy and successful conclusion of the review," the statement said.

Reporter Teri Schultz tells our Newscast unit the Greek plan would keep Athens' budget under control, as required by international creditors, while spending more on social programs, as desired by Greek voters. Teri says Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis pledged to improve tax collection and to fight fraud, and promised that expenditures on the country's "humanitarian crisis" will not harm Greece's bottom line. You can read a full list of Greece's proposals here.

Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, said the deal had "averted an immediate crisis." But, he added, "It does not mean we approve those reforms, it means the approach is serious enough for further discussion."

Greece was badly hurt by the global recession and needed an international bailout to stay afloat. But many of the conditions, including austerity, imposed by its creditors — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – were deeply unpopular in Greece, and resulted last month in the election of the far-left Syriza Party, which was elected on strong anti-austerity rhetoric. That led to speculation that Greece could stop using the euro as its currency.

Jeroen Dijsselbloom, the head of the Eurogroup, said today's developments should end that speculation.

"It's simply not on the table," he said. "My target is to maintain the eurozone intact, resilient to work together and to stick together."

Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, said Greece's proposals were a "valid starting point" for discussions. But IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde was more skeptical in a letter to Dijsselbloom.

"In quite a few areas ... including perhaps the most important ones, the letter is not conveying clear assurances that the Government intends to undertake the reforms envisaged in the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies," she said.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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