NEWS

Juncker plays down debt writeoff, makes Commission portfolio pledge

Incoming European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, on a visit to Athens on Monday, played down the prospect of eurozone countries writing off part of Greek debt to make the country's debt sustainable.

Talks on further debt relief for Greece are expected later this year, and Greek and European officials have indicated Athens is likely to get lower interest rates and extension of loan maturities rather than outright write-off of debt.

Asked about whether Greek debt could be sustainable without a so-called «haircut», Juncker said he would not consider the issue before taking office but said: «When it comes to Greece, the question you're mentioning is not part of my meditation."

Juncker will take office on Nov. 1. He was speaking to reporters after a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, to whom the ex-Luxembourg premier referred to as a «friend and a brother."

The European Commission president-elect said he was proud of the fact that he «fought like a lion» to keep Greece in the eurozone when he was head of the Eurogroup.

After Samaras made reference to Argentina's selective default last week, Juncker said that Greece would have suffered the South American country's fate if it had not taken measures.

The two men were due to have lunch with Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who will be Greece's representative at the Commission, which is due to be named in September.

Juncker insisted that he would not be pressurized over how the portfolios will be distributed among the 28 member states.

"I will decide on the portfolios,» he said. «You will not be disappointed."

[Reuters & Kathimerini]

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