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These days, the premier has fixed his sights on a “Grexit” of another kind – leaving the country’s third bailout programme and returning to full market funding in August.

“We had a very difficult adventure from 2010 – difficult days, difficult years for the Greek people,” Tsipras told a group of journalists from across the euro zone in his neo-classical office building, Maximos Mansion, in central Athens. We are very close to concluding successfully the third programme, and our economy is coming back.” While a quarter of Greece’s economy was wiped during the debt crisis, it returned to growth last year, expanding by an estimated 1.6 per cent, buoyed by public consumption, net exports, record tourist numbers – and an improving European outlook.

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The IMF has consistently called on the EU to provide debt relief for Greece, either by writing off some of the loans or by offering further extensions on repayments.

While euro zone finance ministers are open to debt relief, discussions are currently centred around giving Greece further repayment extensions if future economic growth falls short of expectations – subject to future governments continuing to implement economic and fiscal reforms.

“This is undoubtedly a straight vote of confidence to the Greek economy, from investors and from the capital markets.” However, the fledgling recover has come at a high price.

Years of spending cuts and tax increases have left millions in poverty, while hundreds of thousands of young, educated Greeks have emigrated, leaving the most vulnerable behind.

This will affect millions of Greeks – and in an election year.” Unlike Ireland, where a near collapse of the banking system in 2008 led to a fiscal crisis and international bailout (as the cost of making good on a banking guarantee became too much for the State to bear), Greece was forced to become the first euro zone country to seek a rescue package, in May 2010, as it grappled with massive budget and trade deficits.

A build-up in the “twin deficits” was masked in the initial years after Greece joined the euro in 2001, and foreign capital flooded in.Nikos, a 50-something-year-old owner of a family hotel on one of the Greek islands who has returned from visiting his daughter on a six-month Erasmus programme in the Netherlands, speaks during the half-hour metro ride from the airport to the city centre of how he is concerned about her future when she graduates with a marketing degree next year.“I think people will have more confidence when we leave the bailout,” he says, declining to give his surname. I also have a son in university and another still at school. Almost 38 per cent of Greek children are at risk of poverty, the highest in the euro zone, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency.And while private investors were forced to take a €107 billion discount – or “haircut” – on what they were owed in March 2012, marking the biggest debt restructuring in history, Greece’s borrowings still stand at 180 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), the highest in the euro region.The debt mountain – compared to Ireland’s 70 per cent ratio – has left the IMF and Greece’s EU bailout partners at odds over its long-term sustainability.In another corner, a group of North African youths huddle around a loudspeaker playing music, while Jehovah’s Witnesses have set up a stall with books and pamphlets beside the central fountain.

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