Return to Transcripts main page


Slovenia a Bottleneck Country in Refugee Crisis; Inside Assad- Controlled Syria; Divisive Synod Reaches Compromise; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 26, 2015 - 15:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the human tide of refugees fleeing to Europe is forcing answers and this question, can

leaders really watch them freeze to death outside this winter?

My exclusive with the beleaguered prime minister of Slovenia.

Also ahead, we'll take you to Damascus, where refugees are fleeing inside the country to the safety of Assadland.

Plus, the pope has spoken but has he been heard? As the two-year synod on family matters finally ends, one of the pope's closest advisers

tells me that the door is still open to reform on one contentious issue: communion for divorced Catholics.


CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIAS: And I think Pope Francis already has -- the indication he's given, shown us that there is a possibility of us studying

the matter at least. It is not a closed issue. That's what I would think.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Cold, hungry and exhausted, extraordinary scenes of thousands more desperate refugees streaming into Slovenia as E.U. and Balkan leaders talk

about new measures to deal with the ever-growing crisis, like setting up tent cities for another 100,000 people and more efficient ways of counting

refugees passing through.

But will these plans be enough?

According to the U.N., as we know more, than 4 million people have fled Syria since the war started more than four years ago. Slovenia is the

latest flashpoint for this influx in Europe; 76,000 have come in the last 10 days alone.

Europe is deploying 400 more police to help at the Slovenian border but the Prime Minister Miro Cerar calls the situation unbearable, warning

the E.U. risks falling apart unless it does take concrete action.

And he's joining me now for an exclusive interview from the capital, Ljubljana.


Prime Minister Cerar, welcome to the program.

Let me ask you whether you believe the summit that's just concluded will save Europe from falling apart, as you warned.

MIRO CERAR, PRIME MINISTER OF SLOVENIA: Well, good evening. I believe that the summit was definitely the step in the right direction. I

think that the commitments the leaders made are very strong and now it's upon us to deliver.

I do believe that this summit has brought some awareness that we have to cooperate, that we have to reduce the flow of migrants to Europe, that

we have to slow down the flow.

But above all, as I said, that we have to enhance, improve our cooperation in order to protect our European values and in order to, of

course, deal with the refugees in a humanitarian way and, at the same time, to protect the security of our citizens. So I do believe that the summit

was important, the step in the right direction, yes.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you a question that I posed. You know, absent some kind of help, European leaders are going to be watching

refugees freeze all across the hills and cities and fields of Europe.

Can you actually allow yourselves to do that?

CERAR: Well, first of all, Europe has to deal with this issue at the external borders and before that also, of course, in the countries of

origin. We must find a solution for the crisis in Syria and elsewhere.

But then also how to stop this influx, this great influx of refugees into Europe. And we have to do this at the external borders. This is my

strong conviction.

At the same time, you know, we are facing this big migration flows now in our countries and Slovenia, as you said, has been under great pressure.

We have a very serious situation here. Tens of thousands of refugees are coming to our country every day and we are a small country with 2 million

of inhabitants here in the middle of Europe.

Can you now imagine, just a few days ago, 13,000 of refugees come to Slovenia in one single day?

AMANPOUR: Well, to that point, Mr. Prime Minister --


CERAR: If we compare this in proportion with -- may I just give an example to be very clear on that?

If you compare this with the United States, it would --


CERAR: -- mean that 2 million people would enter the United States across the border in one single day.

It is really, as you can imagine, a great burden for a country like Slovenia.

AMANPOUR: Indeed. The burden is huge. The numbers are huge. You mentioned 13,000 in a day. We've said 76,000 in the last 10 days.

So, to that point, is this new summit proposal for 100,000 more slots for incoming refugees through the Balkans to your area, is that enough?

Or is that going to be filled in a matter of snapping your fingers?

CERAR: It is definitely not enough but, as I said, it is one of the important steps forward. We definitely have to make some agreement with

Turkey. Turkey is now a regional power. We must have great concern for this issue there. They have a lot of refugees and migrants there.

And we have to come to an agreement with Turkey to prevent all those migrants coming to Europe via, of course, Greece and other countries. And

I believe that we are able to find this, let's say, to conclude this agreement with Turkey in the future as soon as possible. Of course, I'm

looking for that to happen soon.

And I do also believe that we must sow our solidarity now. All countries of the Europe Union and all other European countries must

cooperate because we can only solve this difficult situation together according to the principle of solidarity.

AMANPOUR: OK, Mr. Prime Minister, you said we've all got to cooperate but you've also warned that if one doesn't and that, unless the plans are

implemented, that you may be forced to take additional measures.

What kind of measures are you talking about?

Hungary-style fences?

What are you talking about?

CERAR: You know, if the situation deteriorates, then, of course, we will escalate our measures also in Slovenia. But I believe that we still

have a very good chance to avoid this scenario.

You know, I believe in Slovenia. I believe in our people but I also believe in Europe. And I do believe that the world cannot live without

Europe. The world needs Europe. And it needs its values, its spirit, its culture.

So I don't want to think in terms of, you know, falling apart of Europe. Even if I said that, it was just a warning because I want to see

this Europe to find a united way to solve the issue, to find a common approach and to show that it can be effective and finding a solution and

implementing it so we can protect people here but also accept certain groups of migrants here, refugees, because they are really in need for


So we must show our solidarity and our, let's say, supportive approach to all those who are really suffering right now and coming to Europe for

this reason.

AMANPOUR: Prime minister Miro Cerar of Slovenia, thanks so much for joining me tonight.


AMANPOUR: And, of course, the victims of Syria's war are not only fleeing to Europe; 6.5 million Syrians have fled their homes but remain in

country, many seeking shelter, of all places, in Assad's territory, as PBS "Frontline" correspondent, Martin Smith, found out.



(Speaking foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): I'm from Aleppo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Palmyra.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): So coming from all over Syria to places like Damascus and that is from the new documentary, "Inside Assad's Syria,"

which portrays a rarely seen slice of life from regime die-hards to Damascus dance clubs and Mediterranean resorts.

So joining me now from New York is Martin Smith.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program. It really was a rare insight, Martin, into, for want of a better word, Assadland, Damascus and the

coastal rump state that he has.

What struck you most about it?

MARTIN SMITH, PBS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was told before I went in that I would be surprised immediately by how ordinary things seemed and, in

fact, that was the case.

When I arrived, things seemed sort of relaxed. But it didn't --


SMITH: -- take long before you saw the war. The rebels control areas surrounding or in the suburbs of Damascus. In fact, nowhere did I feel

closer to the front line than in Damascus perhaps.

So, you know, it was very evident to me that the regime had pulled back from large parts of the country. You've got about one-third of the

country geographically still in regime hands. It represents about two- thirds of the population.

On the other hand, a lot of people ask me, well, is Assad in danger of losing control?

Is the regime going to fall?

And I don't think that was the case, either. I didn't know the answer to that question going in but I think it's very clear that he's there for

the long haul.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's interesting you say that. And you mentioned, you know, sort of a surreal atmosphere and it certainly was, looking at the


I want to run a clip about the two parts of Homs that you were in: on the one hand, the bombed-out, devastated part; on the other hand, a new

resort that's just been built for tourists there, of all things. Let's take a look.


SMITH (voice-over): So we follow him and the governor through the bombed-out remains of central Homs to this place five miles east of the

city, just 10 miles from rebel lines.

The animals look as stunned as I am.


AMANPOUR: So there you were, following the Syrian tourism minister.

I mean, is this real or is it a state of denial?

SMITH: Well, I think it's a little of both. I mean, I talked to him at some length.

I said, what were you thinking?

Did you really think that running a campaign to raise morale on social media was going to produce good results?

And, you know, they see it as they're beleaguered and their population is demoralized. So they wanted to do something to raise people's spirits.

So they have had fashion shows and film festivals, all sorts of dance parties, events to try to raise people's morale.

On the other hand, they posted that everybody should go on Twitter and tweet out their experiences and that really backfired. People, of course,

sent in their tweets about how their house is destroyed, their kids have been killed, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So they're in denial.

AMANPOUR: Martin, you were there just as Russia was building up in Latakia. And at that time, you met a number of people obviously but also

one of Assad's regional commanders.

And you did actually ask him -- pose a question that many in the West are posing, and that is, don't you think Assad is a war criminal?

Let's listen to this clip and then we'll talk about it.


SMITH: Many in America say that the president is a war criminal and he is conducting a war indiscriminately and killing civilians.

What do you say to those Americans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What should we say?

Welcome armed groups, welcome rebels?

What should we do?

Send boxes of flowers and fruit?


AMANPOUR: So there you really had it, what the regime and what many people believe is that anybody who's not Assad is a terrorist.

Did you get any sense that, as beleaguered as his sort of rump state now is, having to depend on Iran and Russia, that there was any movement or

desire for negotiation or a political solution?

SMITH: Well, I think that Assad himself gave a speech while I was in country and it was the first time he had spoken publicly in about a year.

And he came out and said, look, we can't defend all these areas. We have to be realistic. We have to pull back, stop running around in the

deserts and the eastern part of the country and pull back and defend the areas that we really want to hold on to.

So there was sort of a pragmatic approach. But I think with Russia coming in, people were feeling like maybe this is going to end, maybe this

is -- you know, maybe there's a way out.

And certainly Putin has leverage with Assad that the Americans don't have. So there is some movement, I think, and a belief that perhaps

something can be worked out.

AMANPOUR: Well, Martin, really fascinating. Martin Smith, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

And again, "Inside Assad's Syria" airs Tuesday night in the United States and it is available online, an extraordinary look into Syria today.

And coming up, if Sunnis and Shiites are at war across the Middle East, there is a culture clash going on inside --


AMANPOUR: -- Christianity. As the first Anglican female bishop enters Britain's House of Lords, Roman Catholic women still have no voice

and no votes in the just-concluded synod on the families.

What were the pope's historic attempts at reform? Next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

One of the most divisive meetings of Catholic leaders in half a century ended this weekend with the Vatican synod on the family deciding by

a single vote to allow for case-by-case consideration of remarried divorcees receiving communion and sticking to their hard line against same-

sex marriage.

Pope Francis said that church leaders must confront difficult issues fearlessly, "without burying our heads in the sand," he said.

I've been speaking to the archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, one of the pope's hand-picked advisers on this synod. He told me

the door on many contentious issues has still not slammed completely shut.


AMANPOUR: Cardinal Gracias, welcome to the program.

CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIAS, ARCHBISHOP OF BOMBAY: Thank you very much. I'm so happy to be here.

AMANPOUR: Cardinal, all eyes are on this extraordinary synod that's been taking place in the Vatican and it's the result of some two years of


If you were to score who comes up ahead, is it the traditionalists amongst the cardinals or is it the reformists?

GRACIAS: I would say in all honesty that neither the traditionalists nor the reformists have come (INAUDIBLE).

Also I want to mention to you, Christiane, that we have not really taken decisions. We've raised questions and we said we don't have the

answers; we've given a direction and we've presented it to the Holy Father, who will study the matter.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you about the way forward for millions and millions of Roman Catholics all over the world who, for whatever sad

reason, found themselves divorced, wanted to remarry, have remarried and are unable to take communion.

And that vote was the closest. The bishops came down on a no on that by just one vote.

So what do you say to those people?

Is there any hope for that to be resolved in their favor in the future?

GRACIAS: This was the one paragraph, one section which got the closest vote. Having said that, there were two groups on either side. One

group said that you can't change anything because, by changing anything, by giving communion to divorced/remarried, you are going against Scripture.

You are going against the teaching of the church and the teaching of the popes.

And the other group said, no, that was not very true. We must relook at this problem and let's start giving them communion.

I think Pope Francis already has -- the indication he's given, shown us that there is a possibility of us studying the matter at least. It is

not a closed issue. That's what I would think.

AMANPOUR: There was some sort of third way suggested or raised, a matter of personal counsel by the local bishop or the priest in these

individual instances.

GRACIAS: That is a possible way. But we see at this time, I can see that those who want no change would be afraid that this might be opening

the floodgates and all of a sudden bishops might start giving everybody permission.

I met many people --


GRACIAS: -- in Europe, who are so distressed, good people, who really feel in conscience their first marriage was null and void; the second

marriage is a good marriage. And they feel so upset and almost frustrated that they can't receive the Lord (INAUDIBLE).

And I don't think they are able to find a way forward of helping them. I'm not saying we'll be able to give them -- we'll be able to find a

solution for all cases. But I do think that we should not say we can't find a solution for any cases.

AMANPOUR: And, Cardinal, it obviously was not a surprise that the cardinals said no to the notion of same-sex marriage and said that it

wasn't even remotely similar to heterosexual marriage.

What, though, do you think the church needs to do to be more accommodating to the gay community?

GRACIAS: Certainly, I, too, would say no to gay marriages and (INAUDIBLE) they are not akin to a sacramental marriage.

Many blame these people for having a homosexual orientation. That I would not agree with. I do think and I do (INAUDIBLE) these people need

affection, need caring and need to be told that the church needs them. They, too, are part of our family, the Catholic family and they need

pastoral attention also.

Perhaps when the bishops can organize a special pastoral attention to such people.

AMANPOUR: And how contentious was the synod?


GRACIAS: -- I felt that it -- contentious, yes.

What surprised me, Christiane, was the amount of emotion I noticed on certain issues. That was a bit of a -- not a surprise but an eye-opener to


And then I -- then I review what would probably not go through and what would go through in the final voting. But there were lots of emotion.

Africa had its own concerns; Europe had its own concerns. Asia was a bit -- a little objective in that sense. Then Australia was similar to

Europe and America, of course, had its own concerns.


GRACIAS: But it was very revealing to me.

AMANPOUR: Yes. The pope obviously has to make his final decision and make his final conclusions on all of this. And he has said that this whole

synod should have been something whereby the church and the cardinals and the bishops confront all these issues of modern-day life without, quote,

"burying our heads in the sand."

Do you feel that there was a big faction trying to bury their heads in the sand?

GRACIAS: I think that now everybody has pulled out his head from the sand --


GRACIAS: -- since that the pope is -- I think that, yes, we didn't -- wouldn't talk about some of these topics because we thought they were

closed or perhaps we said, no, no one will agree to us. And now everybody had the courage because the pope encouraged, Pope Francis encouraged

everybody to speak his mind.

So people spoke things which I think they wouldn't have spoken 20 years back.

AMANPOUR: But he's also been very forceful in the issue of the climate, which affects the whole world. And today the Vatican has launched

another appeal to all the governments who will be present at the next big meeting, which will be held in Paris.

What is the intention of the bishops who've put out this appeal?

The pope's already done it.

Why did you need to add to that?

GRACIAS: The pope did it as a teaching for everybody, giving doctrine. Now we wanted to -- the bishops of the world wanted to impress

on the governments because, as I said, the people really do need this.

It's the first time all the bishops of the world really together made an appeal to governments to do something. And this is specifically

something that we felt that we were aligned with "Laudato Si." But I want to tell you that we began working on this even before "Laudato Si."

AMANPOUR: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, thank you so much for joining us from Rome tonight.

GRACIAS: Thank you so much. Thank you. It's a joy. Thank you so much.


AMANPOUR: And just a little more on the synod, even though women were present, they weren't allowed to vote on the issues at hand. You can find

out what Cardinal Gracias told me about their role in the Catholic Church online at

Coming up, after a break, imagine a world where you can laugh your way into the presidency. We take a look at a former comedian become head of

state. That's next.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, running for president is usually no laughing matter, especially in dark and dangerous times across much of the

world. So imagine a world where electoral fortune favors the funny.

Former comedian Jimmy Morales was once seen as a joke candidate for the Guatemalan presidency. Well, the joke was on everyone else because

Morales is now Guatemala's president-elect.

Barely registering in any of the polls earlier this year, his catchy campaign slogan, "Not corrupt, not a thief," catapulted him over the finish

line with almost 70 percent of the vote after a race that was marred by epic corruption scandals amongst the ruling elite.

Now on the one hand, some regimes arrest their comedians while in Guatemala they elect them. On the other hand, as the saying sort of goes,

you can campaign in comedy but you've got to govern in prose.

That's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see all our interviews at and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.