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Eurozone Ministers To Give Greece Four-Month Credit Extension


Today, after weeks of negotiation, Greece secured four more months of credit. Finance ministers from the countries that use the euro agreed to give Greece the extension on its bailout. In return, the new Greek government must stick to reforms and keep its finances in check. Greeks have been hoping for a deal since electing an anti-austerity government. It promised to end the deep recession that's economically devastated the country. Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he was optimistic when he arrived in Brussels earlier today. The Greek government, led by the leftist Syriza party, pushed hard for years on lenders to drop the spending cuts and tax hikes that had come in exchange for a previous bailout loan deal. And the government compromised to make that happen, Varoufakis said.


YANIS VAROUFAKIS: The Greek government has gone not the extra mile, the extra 10 miles. And now we're expecting our partners to meet us not halfway, but one fifth of the way. I have no doubt that there's going to be a very collegial discussion, and hopefully at the end of this we come out with some white smoke.

KAKISSIS: White smoke - that's a reference to the smoke that comes out of the Sistine Chapel when a pope is chosen. A four-month loan extension isn't quite a religious experience, but it's the best Greece can hope for right now. National parliaments of the 19 states that use the euro must approve the extension. Greece wanted no more austerity, and this agreement doesn't appear to force any more economic hardship on the devastated middle class. But Greek ministers do have to deliver a list of financial and market reforms by Monday, said Jeroen Djisselbloem, who leads the eurozone finance ministers.


JEROEN DJISSELBLOEM: We have a joint interest to stabilize the situation in Greece to continue with the economic recovery for Greece and maintaining, at the same time, the sustainable fiscal policy.

KAKISSIS: Greeks like Maria Latzanaki hope that sustainable fiscal policy actually means an economic recovery for Greece. The unemployment rate has tripled under eurozone-imposed austerity measures. Latzanaki is a doctor, and she's out of work.

MARIA LATZANAKI: (Speaking Greek).

KAKISSIS: "We must change our fate," she said, "and until now, everyone has told us that we had only one road - austerity or else. I think it's healthy that we want change. We absolutely need a new course." For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.