EU finance ministers were expected to approve the release of bailout funds to Greece, ahead of an EU summit. Germany's finance minister said Athens appeared to have made progress in implementing austerity measures.
European Union finance ministers met in Brussels on Thursday to examine the progress Greece has made towards implementing spending cuts and economic reforms that Athens promised in return for its second international bailout.
Prior to the talks, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble expressed confidence that he and his eurozone colleagues would approve the release of the first tranche of the 130-billion-euro ($173 billion) bailout agreed by EU leaders last week.
"From what I heard ahead of time, it looks as if Greece has made progress," Schäuble said, referring to Athens' efforts to implement austerity measures. "Because of that I believe we will make a big step forward today."
France's finance minister expressed a similar sentiment.
The finance ministers' meeting comes ahead of a two-day EU summit, in which the 27 leaders hope to move on from the Greek debt crisis and focus on measures designed to revive economic growth. Among other things, the leaders of all but two countries are expected to sign a financial regulation agreement that would force member states to get their financial houses in order.
The leaders were also expected to formally grant Serbia EU candidate status. Serbia had hoped to be granted formal candidate status at an EU summit last December, but EU leaders balked in part due to sporadic outbursts of violence along Serbia's border with its former province, Kosovo.
Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers recommended that the leaders now go ahead with the move, following a deal between Belgrade and Pristina aimed at reducing tensions.
The deal provides a framework for Serbia and Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008, to cooperate in the management of their common border crossings. It also allows Kosovo to take part in international conferences, despite the fact that Serbia does not recognize its independence.
pfd/ccp (Reuters, AFP, dpa)