The European Commission on Wednesday declared that Athens’ budget is now in line with EU rules and ready to exit the austerity years, recommending that the European Council close the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Greece.

The country has succeeded with its substantial efforts in recent years to consolidate its public finances coupled with the progress made in implementation of the European Stability Mechanism support program for Greece, said a commission press release.

"Our recommendation to close the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Greece is another positive signal of financial stability and economic recovery in the country. I invite Greece to build on its achievements and continue to strengthen confidence in its economy, which is important for Greece to prepare its return to the financial markets," European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the euro and social dialogue, said of the decision.

He also urged swift implementation of agreed reforms, saying that a long-term growth strategy would help ensure more and better jobs, robust growth, and prosperity in the future

Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici hailed the move, saying: "This is a very symbolic moment for Greece. After so many years of sacrifices by the Greek people, the country is finally reaping the benefits of its efforts. Following the payment of €7.7 billion 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, to below the euro area average. Greece is now ready to exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure, turn the page on austerity, and open a new chapter of growth, investment and employment.”

Greece has made significant progress in returning to a path of fiscal sustainability, said the commission. The general government balance has improved from a deficit of 15.1 percent in 2009 to a surplus of 0.7 percent in 2016, well below the 3 percent threshold set out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. This is in addition to substantial and wide-ranging structural reform packages Greece has adopted.