February 8, 2011 / 7:02 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-EU's Juncker says Greek debt buyback worth considering

* Juncker open to Greek debt buyback, bailout extension

* Says Greece taking right measures, can count on EU

* Need more details on German-backed competiveness pact

(Recasts with fresh Juncker quotes)

By Ingrid Melander and Harry Papachristou

ATHENS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday he was open to a Greek debt buyback and a 30-year extension to the repayment of the country’s bailout loans if Germany would consider it.

Juncker applauded Greek fiscal efforts and said he was sure debt-ridden Greece and the euro zone would survive the debt crisis, triggered at the end of 2009, when Greece revealed its finances were in a much worse state than previously thought.

In an effort to reduce Greece’s debt burden as early as the second half of this year, EU and German officials are considering steps such as a debt buyback, sources said last week.

“That’s an idea, a suggestion worth being followed but I have to discuss this with my colleagues at the Eurogroup,” he told Reuters during a visit to Athens.

He said that if the German government was willing to consider a 30-year extension to the repayment of Greece’s 110 billion euro bailout loans, he would not oppose it.

He added that he did not think joint eurobonds would be adopted in the near future.

“The euro will survive and Greece will be among the survivors,” Juncker told reporters, adding that Athens was taking the right austerity measures and could count on the solidarity of its partners.

Juncker also said the euro itself was not in crisis.

Euro zone leaders aim to agree in March on a comprehensive package to draw a line under the bloc’s debt crisis.

Tensions over what measures the euro zone needs to take to exit the debt crisis emerged at a summit last week after Germany, backed by France, proposed a competitiveness pact that includes locked debt limits and increased retirement ages. [ID:nLDE7160TY]

Juncker said the two countries must detail their proposal, which and has irked a number of their partners. “It is a baby you cannot love before it is born,” he said.

The cost of protecting Greek and other euro zone peripheral debt against default rose on Tuesday, with some analysts saying dissent over the competitiveness pact dampened expectations of strong measures to tackle the debt crisis. [ID:nLDE7170RD]

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told the same news conference that euro zone leaders should take decisions in March, without delay.

“We are on the right path but as it was clear from the beginning, Europe has to take the necessary decisions as there were shortages in the euro zone’s economic governance,” he said. (Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Dina Kyriakidou; Editing by Ron Askew)

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