BRUSSELS, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The European Commission on Wednesday recommended to close the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Greece, saying the three times bailed-out country has made substantial efforts in recent years to consolidate public finances.
"Greece has made significant progress in returning to a path of fiscal sustainability. The general government balance has improved from a deficit of 15.1 percent in 2009 to a surplus of 0.7 percent in 2016," the European Commission said in a statement.
According to EU fiscal rules, its member states have to keep their budget deficits below 3 percent of their economic output otherwise they will face sanctions.
Thanks to "the structural reform packages that Greece has adopted as part of its commitments" under its bail-out programs, Greece is expected to have a deficit of 1.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017, well below the 3 percent threshold.
Last week the eurozone rescue fund known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), agreed to unlock new loans of 8.5 billion of euros (9.7 billion U.S. dollars) to Greece. The first disbursement amount to 7.7 billion euros was paid out on Monday.
"Following the payment of 7.7 billion euros on Monday as a result of the conclusion of the second review, today's proposal by the European Commission is recognition of the massive reduction of Greece's fiscal deficit," said Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic and financial affairs.
He said Greece was now ready to turn the page on austerity and open a new chapter of growth, investment and employment.
The move will help Greece to return to international bond markets and will help the country smoothly end its third bailout program which is due to end in August 2018.
If member states follow the Commission's recommendation, only France, Spain and Britain would remain the fiscal disciplinary procedure for their excessive deficit.