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Interview of Foreign Minister Droutsas, at Al Jazeera (17 December 2010)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Journalist:  I’m very pleased to say that I’m joined by the Greek Foreign Minister, particularly relevant of course in the circumstances, Dimitrios Droutsas. Mr. Droutsas, tell me how significant this agreement here, overnight, is?

Mr. Droutsas: It certainly is a very significant agreement. It was up to us, to the European Union, to the Member States, to state clearly that the Euro is a stable currency and most important that the European Union Member States are ready to do whatever is necessary also in the future to defend the Euro and to cope with any kind of challenges that might come up. This was a clear message today. Certainly a lot of work has to be done still for the future, but the important thing is that this clear message has been given by the European Council yesterday night.

Journalist: The leaders are saying anything that needs to be done will be done but they were very set against, for example, doubling the size of the emergency fund that might be available.

Mr. Droutsas: Certainly there are issues that maybe also some of us would have liked to see already yesterday. Maybe there was no consensus on that yet, but it’s important that there was a discussion. An open discussion has begun within the European Union, and I am pretty confident that we will see this kind of necessary tools in the future, hopefully in the very near future.

Journalist: Talk me through the economic backdrop to all of this because we have very worrying clouds on the horizon, Moody’s, the credit rating agency has significantly downgraded Ireland’s debt rating by five points in the last 24 hours. They also warned that Spain might need to be downgraded and Greece as well might need to be downgraded. It’s clear that the discussions here are not purely hypothetical, are they?

Mr. Droutsas: Certainly not. The markets have their own life. We have our experiences with that. What I can say for the case of Greece is that we are committed to our program. We are committed to the reform package. These are very important reforms for our country. And we are regaining credibility.  This is for us a key element; credibility is the key word for Greece. We are regaining it. We are doing what we have committed ourselves to do; we are doing what is necessary. And I think that also the Greek people, they deserve to see that their sacrifices, all the sacrifices are acknowledged by everybody.

Journalist: Talking about the population and just finally, that is perhaps the most difficult thing, selling it to your people. Greece’s bailout was back in May, and we had a general strike on Wednesday which ended in violence. Ireland, for example, their bailout was just recently in November. So perhaps the austerity measures haven’t had time to filter through to generate public anger but the reality is that we may see more civil unrest across Europe as the economic tightening of the belt continues.

Mr. Droutsas: Certainly, we are asking a lot of from our citizens, a lot of sacrifices and this is the case for Greece, really very deep sacrifices by the Greek people. But I am certain that the major part of the Greek population and the Greek society, they understand and they are committed to the reforms. Again, credibility is for us key; we are regaining it. And if I may say a last word on that, we saw some nasty pictures again about Greece in the last days. This is violence that we are condemning; purely condemning, but these are isolated events. These are isolated actions that the Greek society does not accept and we are isolating them. This is not the real image of Greece. Let us go back, let us remember Greece of 2004, the Olympic Games. This is where we want to get again and we are going to do whatever is necessary for that.

Journalist: We certainly hope so. Thank you very much indeed for joining us, Mr. Droutsas.