Greece extension request 'paves way' for debt compromise: EU

Greece extension request 'paves way' for debt compromise: EU
Birds fly past the Acropolis in Athens on Feb 19, 2015. Greece asked its EU creditors for six-month loan assistance, pledging to respect fiscal balance but rejecting further austerity, a government source said.

BRUSSELS - A request by Greece to extend its bailout loan agreement with its European partners marks a big step towards achieving a much-needed compromise to end the row, the EU said on Thursday.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker "sees in this letter (from the Greek government) a positive sign which could pave the way for a reasonable compromise in the interest of financial stability in the euro area as a whole," his spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news briefing.

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem confirmed that Greek authorities had sent a request for a six-month extension to their EU loan programme.

"It is very clear what now needs to be done, everything that is in this letter... will now have to be discussed by the Euro Working Group and then by the Eurogroup," Schinas said. Officials from the 19-member eurozone are meeting later Thursday to lay the groundwork for the Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers on Friday.

"This is now their responsibility... to get a unanimous agreement," Schinas said.

Any extension of Greece's bailout, which expires at the end of the month, will need the approval of all 19 members of the single currency bloc.

This includes powerhouse Germany, which firmly opposes offering leeway to Athens and voiced its opposition Thursday to according the extension request by Greece.

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