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Greek Finance Minister Says His Countrymen Will Stick To Their Austerity Plan

Aired September 27, 2011 - 14:00:00   ET


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A call for tolerance. The Greek prime minister stresses the huge efforts being made on austerity.

From fears to hope of a deal on debt, global stock markets surge.

And in "The Boss" we introduce the man who selling e-Harmony.

Hello, I'm Nina Dos Santos in for Richard Quest. This is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Good evening.

First, though, we've been following the opening remarks in the trial for Michael Jackson's doctor. Prosecutors say that Conrad Murray's alleged negligence led to the singer's death in June 2009. We'll bring you the defense statements as soon as we get them. That is the story we are following closely here on CNN.

Tonight, though, in financial news the Greek prime minister tells German investors, we'll fight to stay solvent. George Papandreou is in Berlin where he has been talking to business leaders. He is due to dine with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel this very evening. On Thursday German lawmakers will vote on a proposal to beef up Europe's bailout fund. Many Germans are against giving more aid to Greece.

Mr. Papandreou, or Prime Minister Papandreou, indeed, says the fund must be expanded for the sake of the euro. As Greek lawmakers debated new austerity measures he insisted that Greece will keep on paying its debt and it is doing all it can to get its house in order.


GEORGE PAPANDREOU, PRIME MINISTER, GREECE: I can guarantee that Greece will live up to all its commitments. I promise you, we Greeks will soon fight our way back to growth and prosperity after this period of pain.

The persistent criticisms leveled against Greece are deeply frustrating. Frustrating not only at the political level, where a super human effort is being made to meet stringent targets in a deepening recession, but frustrating also for the Greeks who are making these painful sacrifices and difficult changes. We are not asking for applause. We are simply -- we are not even asking for people to say that this is going to be an easy project. We need years to make these major changes.


DOS SANTOS: Now, we are going to be going back to that story in just a second. Just to keep you up to date on what is going on, on the other side of the planet, where we have the -- Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray going on trial. And the defense, as you can see, has started making its opening statements. We will, of course, bring you the latest developments there from that courtroom, when we get it.

Let's go back to the situation in Germany and also in Athens, at the moment, and talk about the kind of reception that George Papandreou is getting in Germany. As we have been saying he is meeting with leaders there, trying to do all he can to stress that Greece will do all it can to pay its bills. We are live in Berlin with Fred Pleitgen and also in Athens with John Defterios, who has been speaking to the Greek finance minister himself, no less. Let's first go to Fred in Berlin.

And, Fred, this going to be a very difficult day and perhaps an difficult dinner with Angela Merkel, for George Papandreou, isn't it?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is. It has already been a very difficult day and it certainly will be a very difficult meeting that George Papandreou is going to have with Angela Merkel, which is actually set to start right about right now. But one of the things we have to keep in mind, Nina, is that the reason why George Papandreou is here is not to convince Angela Merkel to vote yes on these extra, additional bailout money. It is, in fact, to convince members of Angela Merkel's governing coalition, because that is where the main euro skeptics are that could become a danger to the vote that is going to be here in German parliament on Thursday.

There are people in Angela Merkel's -- in the Liberal Democratic Party, which is a coalition partner of Angela Merkel, and also in the Christian Democratic Party as well. So, if you look at what George Papandreou has been saying to that, a lot of that was aimed at the German public and also at lawmakers, especially in Angela Merkel's governing coalition. She, herself, came out today and said that Germany will help Greece to try and come through, and will do everything it can to keep Greece afloat, Nina.

DOS SANTOS: Fred, many thanks for that. That German parliamentary vote will, of course, be crucial to the future of Greece and beefing up the European Financial Stability Fund. But there has also been a crucial vote that has gone on Greece. The controversial property tax measure, it seems, has just passed in the parliament in Athens. And that is where John Defterios is at the moment.

John, what's the latest you can tell us?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Nina, you can call this a double -- barreled strategy. You have Mr. Papandreou in Berlin, talking to the industrialists and Angela Merkel there. And here you had the Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos trying to hold down the fort and keep Greeks in line on this march to austerity, which is far from over.

To give you a sense of the tension on the ground. Let's take a look at Syntagma Square, parliament square, where we are standing right now. There are better than 2,000 Athenians who have gathered to listen to the results of that property tax vote. There was also a debate over the furloughed workers; some 30,000 now who will get less pay during this period of austerity. We had a whole line of motorcycle riders come through this crowd in the last five minutes. And you can see the police now, moving up the barricades, away from the front of the parliament as a result of the growing crowd here. Earlier, in an exclusive interview with the finance minister, he said, now with the property tax vote in place, and the cut in pensions, and the cut in salaries, he is now confident -- confident now, that the sixth traunch of money from the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, will be delivered by mid-October. Let's take a listen.


EVANGELOS VENIZELOS, FINANCE MINISTER, GREECE: Our decision, our determination, is to fulfill our obligations, our duties, because for us the main target now is to go ahead. It is absolutely necessary for us to reestablish the national dignity and our fiscal and financial independence. And because of that, the Greek people are absolutely ready to accept very strong sacrifices.

On the other hand, the Eurozone, I believe is always ready to take the necessary decisions because we need very organized system for the self protection of the Eurozone and the euro as a common currency. Within this frame, I'm absolutely optimistic about the sixth investment, and also about the implementation of the so-called new program. Always in reference to the terms of the famed decision of 21st of July.

DEFTERIOS: So there is not a new program -- so we can clarify it for everyone -- taking shape for a 50 percent haircut? There is not a new program, not just for Greece, but the peripheral countries of Europe, to reshape and provide a 50 percent haircut on government debt?

VENIZELOS: I am the responsible minister of finance of Greece, and here, in order to apply and to implement our joint European decision of July not to participate in different discussions, irresponsible discussion or in order to repeat rumors or comments. For me, the only duty, the only path, is to implement the decision of 21st of July. The decision included the PSI, the existing private sector involvement. Greece is an integral and permanent part of the Eurozone and the euro is absolutely unacceptable to discuss about deviations, of maybe defaults, for a country members of the Eurozone, and of the euro. It is absolutely unacceptable.

DEFTERIOS: Minister, with all due respect, that is not a denial. So there is not a new program taking shape?

VENIZELOS: This is a preamble, if I can use this term, of the new program. The sixth disbursement is the bridging between the old program, the initial BRIC (ph) loan facility, and the next program, our work with the troika. The last very strong and difficult decisions of the Greek government and the Greek parliament is the necessary bridging between the old and the new program. But finally, the target is a single, very clear, and very ambitious target to reestablish the dignity and the financial independence, the sovereignty of our country.


DEFTERIOS: Finance Minister Venizelos, there, Nina, talking about the program that is in place right now; $160 billion. Not being drawn in even though I asked him twice whether there is a new package taking shape to cut $50 percent of the debt right now. He just wants to get over the next hurdle to get the traunch, and finish that financing through the end of the year.

You can see the crowd again, building here, as that property vote when through here, in central square, in Syntagma Square, Athens. Nina, back to you.


DOS SANTOS: OK, John Defterios, live on the scene many thanks to that. And also thank you to Fred Pleitgen bringing us the latest from Germany, where George Papandreou is at the moment.

Let's go straight to the opening statements of the defense for Doctor Conrad Murray. This is the physician of Michael Jackson who is on trail for involuntary manslaughter in Los Angeles. Let's listen in.