Greece comes from the rescue of the euro zone after years of austerity World news

After years of heavy savings measures, Greece emerged Monday from its third and final rescue plan, although officials warned that the country still has a "long way to go".

The European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund lent Greece a total of € 289 billion ($ 330 billion) in three programs, in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

The economic reforms demanded by the creditors brought the country to its knees, with a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP) evaporating in eight years and unemployment rising to more than 27%.

After the rescue of the euro zone, Greece has grown again, the once-large government deficit has been turned into a budget surplus and the number of unemployed has dropped below 20%, officials say.

The Greek government estimates that its financing needs are now covered until the end of 2022, and creates room to plan the return to the capital markets.

Mario Centeno, chairman of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), said in a statement: "Greece can stand on its own feet for the first time since early 2010. This was possible thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Greek population, the good cooperation with the current Greek government and the support of European partners through loans and debt relief.

"It took much longer than expected, but I believe we are there."

Greece's third and final rescue operation has officially ended after years of hugely unpopular austerity measures.

Greece's third and final rescue operation has officially ended after years of hugely unpopular austerity measures. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP / Getty Images

Greek households, however, continue to feel the effects of unpopular and stabbing cuts. Pierre Moscovici, EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs, said on the weekend: "The reality on the ground remains difficult, the time for austerity is over, but the end of the program is not the end of the road for reform."

The opinion of Moscovici is shared by the central bank president of Greece, Yannis Stournaras. "Greece still has a long way to go," Stournaras said in an interview with the Kathimerini newspaper on Sunday.

He warned that if Greece backtracked "on what we agreed, now or in the future, the markets will abandon us and we will not be able to refinance maturing loans on sustainable debt conditions".

He also expressed his concern: "If there is a strong international turbulence, either in the neighboring country of Italy or Turkey or in the world economy, we will have problems in tapping markets".

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who expected the end of the rescue operation with a television broadcast at the end of Tuesday, said in June that Greece could focus on a "social state". "Now we have the opportunity to continue with targeted assistance, to continue with tax relief in 2019 and to support social state and well-being," he said.

The country may have reached budget surpluses in 2016 and 2017 – excluding debt repayments – of around 4%, but its hands remain tied to social security expenditure. Greece has already adopted legislation for new reforms for 2019 and 2020 and will remain under supervision for a few more years.

The improving economic indicators are not yet translating into tangible improvements in the daily lives of the Greeks. "The rescue operation is over, but the shackles and suffocation are still on," the opposition-friendly newspaper To Vima wrote on Sunday.

Professor of economics Nikos Vettas thinks it is "necessary" to generate "very strong growth" in the coming years. Otherwise, "families in a very weak position will still suffer as a result of 10 years of cumulative recession".

However, Greece has gained some credibility with the international community. "The commitments that Greece has made for the future are clear, I have no doubt that they will be respected," said French finance minister Bruno Le Maire against To Vima on Sunday, insisting that the country's rescue exit be a " great success ".

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