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Greece ‘ready’ for tough measures, says ambassador

What’s next for Greece after voters rejected a bailout referendum Sunday? Gwen Ifill speaks to Greek Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos about the path ahead for his nation and the potential global consequences of not reaching a compromise with lenders.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    As the government braces for next steps, we turn now to Greece's ambassador to Washington, Christos Panagopoulos.

    Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Ambassador.

  • CHRISTOS PANAGOPOULOS, Ambassador, Greece:

    Thanks for having me.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, now, as you look at what the voters said, no to austerity, what do you think comes next?

  • CHRISTOS PANAGOPOULOS:

    Next comes a euro summit.

    They're going to convene the heads of government and the states of the European Union tomorrow. We will have a Eurogroup. That's the procedure. But, in substance, what the referendum brought with this is unanimity of let's say 80 percent of the parties that represent the Greek Parliament, which they support the prime minister to go tomorrow to Brussels and present a Greek proposal.

    And we have reasons to hope that we're going to reach an agreement in principle, and then trying to renormalize the country economically.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    As you know, some people think that unanimity that you describe is going to take Greece off a cliff. Why are they wrong?

  • CHRISTOS PANAGOPOULOS:

    Because it's the first time since quite a few months, I should say, that the political leaders decided to back the government to reach an agreement.

    And this is a very powerful card. On the other hand, if you look to our partners in Europe and also the IMF, our American partners, nobody has to earn anything if we fail to reach an agreement. The lenders — let me put it very simply — they are going to lose their money. And, of course, we're going to suffer a lot, no question about this, but who's going to profit? No one.

    So, it's a win-win situation to come down at the very last moment and find agreement. And I think this is doable.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, as you go to make your appeal to the European governments who are part of this, is there anything that Greece is willing to give up, to put on the table?

  • CHRISTOS PANAGOPOULOS:

    We have a comprehensive proposal to present, but, as I told you before, the issue of the sustainability of our debt is on the table.

    Why? We don't like to come back after a few months discussing about the Greek crisis. So, yes, we're ready to take very tough measures. But, at the same time, we should deal with the sustainability of the debt, which is agreed back in 2012, but was never implemented, the discussion.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In your opinion, this will test the strength of the Eurozone, not just of the government of Greece?

  • CHRISTOS PANAGOPOULOS:

    It's another test.

    All the history of the European Union is to find ways out of a crisis after crisis and become stronger. That's our hope, that through debate, with difficulty, we're going to find our way out starting from tomorrow and trying to normalize back our country and the Eurozone for the benefit of Europe and, let me say, of the Western community all in all.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What are the chances that this leads to Greece being forced or choosing to exit the Eurozone? And will that be a good thing for Greece?

  • CHRISTOS PANAGOPOULOS:

    Well, when you go to a battle, you don't ask starting about the failures, so we hope that we're going to succeed to have.

    All the unanimity, with the one exception of the parliamentary parties, is to keep Greece in the Eurozone. And that's what we hear from our partners all over Europe, elected and not elected officials.

    Also, today, the White House repeated its wish for a compromise from both parties, adding at the end that they should take care of the sustainability of the Greek debt, which is a big issue right now on the table.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Bottom line, are you as optimistic now as you were, say, a few months ago that Greece is going to find a way out of this muddle?

  • CHRISTOS PANAGOPOULOS:

    We are as optimistic as ever because, right now, it's the time to decide. We have no more time. And, tomorrow, we're going to see, I hope, positive results.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Christos Panagopoulos, ambassador to the United States from Greece, thank you very much.

  • CHRISTOS PANAGOPOULOS:

    Thank you.

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