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May 17, 2010

Greece Receives First Installment of Bailout Loan

Greece has received the first part of a massive rescue package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund on Tuesday to help it out of its fiscal crisis. The money came as the European Union took new measures to crack down on financial excesses.

Athens has received the first $18 billion installment of the massive European Union loans to help it meet its soaring debt and deficit.  It arrived just one day before Greece's deadline to repay $10.6 billion of bonds in order to avoid default.

The Greek financial crisis has sparked fears that other fragile European economies could follow suit.  Stocks and the euro have tumbled during the past week, despite agreement to make available a massive, last ditch bailout package worth a trillion dollars for European economies that might need it.

At a press conference in Brussels, European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said it was critical for the 16 European countries sharing the euro currency to curb their public debts as well as their deficits in the future.

"We are suggesting we need to focus on the public debt much more in the future, not only on the public deficit," he said. "And this stems from the fact that the levels of public debt in Europe have risen from around 60 percent to around 80 percent [of GDP] - actually soon above 80 percent."

EU finance ministers also adopted tougher rules on another key issue - hedge funds - investment vehicles that critics blame as being one element that triggered the global financial crisis.  The European Parliament also backs tougher hedge fund regulation.

European lawmaker Jean-Paul Gauzes told reporters that it is critical to adopt tougher European regulations that guarantee more transparency and security in the use of hedge funds. He said it is also important for European countries to better coordinate and crack down on the misuse of these financial instrument.

But skeptics in Britain and the United States fear that European regulations will hurt hedge fund industries in their own countries.  U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has suggested that greater hedge fund regulation might lead to protectionism in Europe.