A Chat With the Prime Minister of Greece

BY Quinn Bowman  July 1, 2010 at 1:10 PM EDT

Paul Solman: Just had an extended chat with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou here in Athens, where we’ve come (from Spain) on a trip to look at the European economic crisis in the last two letters of the so-called PIGS. A portion of the interview is slated to run on the NewsHour tonight.

Papandreou is an Amherst sociology major who grew up in the States, his family exiled by Greece’s military dictatorship. His father and grandfather were both Greek PMs, imprisoned by the colonels who seized power in 1967. The grandfather died under house arrest; the father (Andreas) was released into exile in the U.S., where he taught economics.

Son George, the current Socialist Prime Minister, is as mild-mannered a world leader as I’ve met. (Not that the list is especially long, mind you.) But he seems mild-mannered even for a schoolteacher, or an accountant. What struck me most was his earnestness. You can’t tell much about a person from a TV interview, perhaps, and the few minutes on either side of it. Moreover, Papandreou was on message throughout the taping: upbeat about Greece’s fortunes; deflective with respect to the troubles here.

You have to pay 12 percent interest on government loans, I pointed out. Doesn’t that suggest the world markets think Greece is going to Hades in a handbasket?

His reply: That’s why the IMF and European Union have, in their wisdom, given us much cheaper money until the markets realize we’ve stabilized.

Again, the actual interview is scheduled to be on the NewsHour tonight. And we’ll try to post more or all of the longer exchange when we can, as we did after running an interview with Brazil’s president, Lula da Silva last September. (See the version of that interview that ran on the show here and the extended version here.)

After the interview, Prime Minister Papandreou was kind enough to indulge our request for the usual TV “walking shot,” during which he expressed considerable interest in worker ownership arrangements and our recent stories about the Springfield Remanufacturing Company and open-book management. (I had only meant to interest him by recounting the chicken-chasing controversy.) He asked me to promise that we let him know more about the company. The Great Game of Business comes to the birthplace of the Olympics? Stay tuned.