European Union leaders sought on Thursday to turn a page on the debt crisis, approving nearly 100 billion euros under Greece's second bailout, and to turn instead to boosting economic growth.
With recession tipped to return after two years of austerity, EU president Herman Van Rompuy signalled a new phase in Europe after talks with employers and unions ahead of a two-day EU summit from 6:00 pm (1700 GMT).
"I'm not saying we are out of the rut, but we have reached a turning-point in the crisis," Van Rompuy said. "The crisis is not over and we must remain vigilant, but everything we have done is now bearing fruit."
Ahead of the summit, eurozone finance ministers met to check whether Greece had fulfilled a long list of conditions behind the 237-billion-euro ($310 billion) second rescue re-negotiated last month.
Greece was given until February 29 to complete reforms so money could start to change hands and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble tipped a "green light" for eurozone taxpayers' money to be released.
"What I heard in advance looks like Greece has made progress. Therefore I think that we will take an important step today," he said on entering talks.
"I have a fairly positive impression of the huge job Greece has undertaken these last hours," International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde added on her arrival.
The tentative go-ahead followed a decision in London, clearing a Greek bond swap, by the body overseeing CDS insurance intruments covering potential claims of 3.25 billion euros for a Greek default.
The ISDA body ruled that the swap of bonds did not amount to a credit event which would have triggered insurance payments.
The bond swap is a key part of the bailout and involves a loss of about 53.0 percent in the value of debt held by private investors. The arrangement will cancel 107 billion euros' worth of Greece's 350-billion-euro total debts.
As acceptances of the swap terms are compiled over the next couple of weeks, eurozone governments through the European Central Bank (ECB) will have to underwrite this offer to the tune of 35 billion euros.
They will also have to make available 30 billion euros in "sweeteners" for the private investors and recapitalise Greek banks -- among the hardest hit -- to the extent of 23 billion euros.
Last month's deal incorporates 5.5 billion euros that will not be returned to eurozone governments as a result of cuts to interest rates on past loans.
The summit proper is to begin with Van Rompuy being confirmed in a new 30-month mandate as EU figurehead and also eurozone whip.
The debate on growth -- ranging from proposals to liberate trading links with the United States and China, to revamping Europe's patchwork of tax systems -- will be accompanied by a decision on Serbia expected in the evening.
A treaty designed to ensure there will be no repetition of the massive debts that felled Greece, Ireland and Portugal will be signed on Friday morning, what German Chancellor Angela Merkel termed a "first step towards a union of stability" on her arrival.
Latest jobless figures out hours before the summit began showed the unemployment rate inching ever higher to a record 10.7 percent in January in the 17-nation eurozone, the ninth month above the symbolic 10 percent ceiling.
That meant more than 5.5 million youngsters aged below 25 were without a job in the EU last month, where Spain saw the highest unemployment at 23.3 percent followed by Greece at 19.9 percent and Ireland and Portugal, both at 14.8 percent.
A statement drafted for the leaders to sign demands an "urgent" revamp of priorities to boost employment among adults to 75 percent, though more than 24 million people are out of work across the EU.