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Greece promises growth in 2014

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Greece has assumed the presidency of the European Union, starting 2014 with a promise by the government to pull the country out of a six-year recession, keep a balanced budget, and effectively end a financial crisis that rattled the euro.

“In 2014, Greece will return to the markets and start to become a normal country again,” Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a televised New Year’s address on Wednesday.

“After six unending, painful years, 2014 will herald the prospect of growth … What’s important is that we’ve avoided the worst.”

But have they?

With most of the 240 billion euros ($A374 billion) in bailout loans already paid out, Greece still has an unsustainably high national debt, faces the threat of renewed political instability, and has more than one-in-four jobless.

Greeks greeted the New Year after many spent hours lining up in tax offices to pay austerity levies on time.

And heavy smog has returned to the country’s capital after decades this winter as households left with no heating throw scrap wood and garbage onto the fireplace to try to keep warm.

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