by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, April 26 (Xinhua) -- Following eight difficult years of debt crisis and austerity measures, Greece has returned to growth and is set to exit the third and final bailout program this August, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said here on Thursday.
During talks with Greek leaders, Juncker stressed the focus now should be shifted to debt relief to ensure the Greek economy will continue on the path of sustainable growth.
"On Aug. 20, it will be the end of the third and final program for Greece...We should focus on the issue of debt relief and all states should respect their obligations on this matter," Juncker said during a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
"We are very confident that we are getting closer to achieve what we call a clean exit from the memoranda, meaning an exit from bailout programs without any precautionary credit line," Tsipras added.
Greece has exceeded its targets and no longer needs austerity measures, but rather measures for growth, the Greek prime minister said, stressing that reforms needed to be deepened to build a healthy, strong economy.
"A new era starts in Greece's history. It will be a critical juncture not only for Greece, but also for Europe," Juncker said during his speech at a special session of parliament later on Thursday.
During a meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the European Commission chief stressed he did not believe at any point in the past eight years that Greece would exit the eurozone.
Pavlopoulos likewise underlined that Greece never imagined its future outside the European Union (EU) or the eurozone.