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Greece's New Interim Prime Minister Faces Huge Task

Nov 10, 2011
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. It comes down to this: the future of the world economy - or at least the next few steps in that future - depends, in part, on the identity of the interim prime minister of Greece. An economist will be sworn in tomorrow, and will lead the country until new elections are called. His name is Lucas Papademos. His selection comes after an intense week of negotiations among Greece's political parties, and we're going to talk about all this with Joanna Kakissis, who's been covering the Greek bailout from Athens. Hi, Joanna.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Hello, Steve.

INSKEEP: So, Papademos, why did it take so long to choose him?

KAKISSIS: Well, many politicians were simply trying to position themselves for elections, which were going to come after the interim government. They didn't want to be associated with austerity, which is what, you know, brought down the Papandreou government, or with a group of unelected technocrats who are supposed to enforce a very unpopular agreement. So who's going to look good? Who's going to look bad? What am I going to get out of this? There's a lot of that happening in the last two days.

INSKEEP: Well, let's just remember the situation, here. Greece is being bailed out by the Europeans. Their debt is being cut in half. It's still going to be very, very hard for them to pay. They're supposed to accept austerity. All of this is happening in a crisis situation, where Europeans are trying to avoid an even larger debt fiasco across the continent. So what is the new interim prime minister supposed to do, then?

KAKISSIS: Well, he's supposed to enforce the latest debt agreement. As you know, the latest deal gave Greece a huge write-down on its debt and gave it additional loans, but the austerity measures are still on their way. And enforcing those austerity measures is what the Europeans are the most concerned about. And they want a government that's going to be committed in - not only in the deal, but in enforcing the measures. And there are also some measures that still have to be worked out. The Papandreou government had lost the power to do so, just because it lost the backing of the people, from what they were able to see.

So, you know, Papandreou was sort of the technocrat, essentially, who was supposed to do that, who was supposed to look at the fine lines and make it happen.

INSKEEP: Supposed to do that. Is it clear to you that Greeks are committed to the terms of this deal?

KAKISSIS: Well, I mean, there are still people who are, even at this late date, who are saying, well, I don't want to sign anything in writing. Antonis Samaras, who's the main opposition leader, is saying just that. But the new coalition government is supposed to be sworn in tomorrow. So there's this idea that there's movement, because there's been so much time wasted, and there are so many people watching Greece right now to see what's going to happen, that even the politicians who have been on the sidelines are saying, well, maybe we should sign on.

INSKEEP: Joanna, thanks for the update.

KAKISSIS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's reporter Joanna Kakissis in Athens, where a new prime minister has been named today. His name is Lucas Papademos.

MONTAGNE: It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.