Thurday 15 March 2012

CNBC:  Now that we’ve got the PSI out of the way, which is basically a big mountain you had to climb, how confident are you that the whole process will be concluded now with the few (bondholders) that are not on board yet?

Venizelos: First of all, until now, we have a very high participation. Until now we have a participation of the level of 95.7%. We are very close to the so-called “universal participation” and according to the fundamental and initial decision of the Euro Summit, our target was this universal participation. Now, after the extension of our offer until the 23rd of March, I am sure that we are in a position to absolutely achieve this target of universal participation, because the market is always very clever, very practical, very realistic and the market knows very well that this offer is unique; it is a very good and profitable offer and every bondholder can make the right option to take this offer with a sweetener equivalent, with a co-financing scheme, with a GDP warrant and also with new bonds under English law. This is a unique and absolutely constructive proposal not only from the part of Greece but also from the part of the so-called “official sector”.

CNBC: You are a lot more optimistic about the wisdom of the market than I am but, that set aside, were you disappointed at all that a credit event was called?

Venizelos: No, not at all because the so-called “credit event” is a legal event, not something real, and it is also legal within the frame of a private platform. Because as you very well know, the International Association of Swaps and Derivatives (ISDA) is an association of banks and other entities of the market and the credit event and the triggering of CDS’s is something internal. This is a kind of dealing room between banks and financial entities. It is not something important for us as a real economy and as a national economy and of course this is nothing for the size of the Eurozone.

CNBC: Were you disappointed by some of the other statements that were out there? I, sometimes, get the feeling that whenever Greece has climbed the mountain somebody else says “Yeah but, so what? They’re still going to default, they’re still going to leave the Eurozone, they’re still going to do this, they’re still going to do that.” Does that not sometimes exasperate you?

Venizelos: Until know. Because now we have a “double” change. Because we have, first of all, a huge financial operation, the biggest ever, but we have also a second point: a new window of opportunity for Greece and a new starting point for a new brand name for the country. After many months we have another, more constructive, more positive atmosphere not only within the Eurozone but also worldwide. And this is something very important for our pride, for our dignity because we need not only financial support but also moral support.

CNBC: That is exactly the point! I think the biggest problem that Greece as a country and the Greek people face at the moment is that whenever these defeatists’ arguments come out, you take hope away. If a country is without hope, then you have resignation on you.

Venizelos: This is an excellent question! This is the problem: We have the national capacity, the national willingness, the national capability to go ahead, to overpass the crisis. And now we have a better, an excellent starting point, because the problem for the market is always the famous sustainability of the Greek public debt. And now we have a sustainable public debt, according to a very, very tough Debt Sustainability Analysis made and presented by the IMF and the other institutions of the famous troika. Now we have a sustainable debt for a sustainable country.

CNBC: Sustainable if the economy does not collapse further. So the key point now is how to get the economy going again.

Venizelos: This is my explanation. Now, for the first time, we are in a position to present a success story for Greece. We need a success story and now we have a real, big success story.  

CNBC: In terms of getting growth back to the country, we’ve already talking about stimulus packages etc., what do you think needs to be done more so urgently?

Venizelos: First of all, we need the implementation of the new package, the recapitalization of the Greek banking system because the first point, the first instrument for growth and prosperity is the necessary liquidity for the real economy and only through a really new after the recapitalization and really strong banking system, we can achieve our target on the field of liquidity.

CNBC: Now the ink on the second bailout package for Greece isn’t quite dry when the doomsday prophets are saying “yeah but we definitely need a third bailout package for Greece.”

Venizelos: We have a very clear political declaration and position from the part of our institutional partners. We have a very clear statement from the part of the Eurogroup but also of the Euro Summit. We have the support of the so-called “Official Sector” until the return of Greece to the market. And now we can persuade the market because we have a new very important and very concrete argument: the sustainability of the public debt after the PSI.

CNBC: There was a bit of discussion in the German press about Herr Schäuble, the German Finance Minister, and you and even with your predecessor having talked of about whether Greece should stay in the Eurozone or should not stay in the Eurozone that it would be better for you. Now, everybody on the political scale agrees Greece should stay in the Eurozone. Was there ever a discussion for you?

Venizelos: Wolfgang Schäuble is a great European political personality, an excellent colleague and friend. We always have many very important discussions during the different sessions of Eurogroup but our position is a public one: Greece is and always remains member of the Eurozone.

CNBC: In terms of European solidarity, I am always somebody who pleads for it and many others do too. Why on the other hand is it so difficult when Europe can show solidarity and giving Greece money and helping Greece out that Greece on the other hand says it is a question of pride not to accept, let’s call it “advisors” whether we call them “EU commissioner for Greece” or whatever we want it called. The Germans for example have fantastic experience with privatization. We had to privatize in East Germany. Somebody else might have better experience in setting up other offices. Why is that so difficult?

Venizelos: We are absolutely open and ready to cooperate and to accept any kind of technical assistance. And we have excellent indications because we’ve worked together with different teams on different fields, for example on fiscal and financial administration, on the reconstruction of the public administration, on the reconstruction of our public enterprises. We are absolutely open and absolutely constructive. And this is very good proof of the so-called European solidarity. We also express always our thanks and our recognition towards our institutional partners because without the European assistance it’s not possible for Greece to return to the market and reorganize the Greek national economy. But I am ready to give a direct, a very clear answer: Yes, we are ready to make delivery, we are ready to fulfill our commitments, we are a credible country, a credible European partner, and we are absolutely ready to cooperate with different aspects and teams of the so-called “technical assistance” from our institutional partners, not only from Europe but also from the IMF.

CNBC: Obviously we are ahead of elections in Greece. You are a candidate for PASOK. What do you tell the Greek people, what has to be done most urgently, where is the change going to come from?

Venizelos: The first point is the necessary safety and security. The second point is the necessary hope, because the problem here is that the Greek society now after a very long period of sacrifices needs something, a good word, a positive indication. And now, after the PSI and after the beginning of the implementation of the new program, we have a new starting point. This is my proposal for our people: to regain our institutional position within the European family.

CNBC: As a European citizen, I am sometimes appalled - I’ve said it in talk shows on German television arguing the same case - at all our politicians whether they’re the Germans, the French, the British, the Greeks, in not being European enough. Because when it suits them, and I’m saying this in broad strokes, then they blame Europe for things that they may be should have done their homework on at home. And that’s when we see these very ugly scenes of Angela Merkel in nazi uniform and headlines. Or on the other hand, the German headlines saying we don’t want to pay for the Greeks sunning themselves at the beach. I think you all need to make us a bit more European. You keep dropping the ball guys.

Venizelos: This is the problem. The main problem for the European Union and also for the procedure of the European consolidation is the so-called “ideological, moral and political deficit.” For us, for you, for every European citizen, Europe is an area of democracy, of quality, of coherence. Without the European social state we are not European, without the European concept of democratic life, we are not European. This is our problem: to restart the pan-European discussion on democracy and also on politics.

CNBC: Have we all forgotten the European vision?

Venizelos: We need a new realistic European vision. But also we need something more: we need a new historical pan-European hope.


2012-03-12. Evangelos Venizelos CNBC Exclusive Interview with Silvia Wadhwa from Evangelos Venizelos on Vimeo.

Tags: Interviews