- Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis insists country is committed to Europe
- Lambrinidis says he is sure the Greek people will vote in favor of bailout
- Minister says the referendum will take place as soon as possible
Greece's Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis says he is confident the Greek people will vote "yes" in a referendum on the EU bailout -- insisting his country is committed to Europe and the euro.
"I expect and I believe that the Greeks will vote yes," Lambrinidis told CNN's Becky Anderson in an exclusive interview. "I think everyone is getting a little tired of doubting the wisdom of the Greek people and their commitment to Europe...
"Our commitment has been proven up to now -- to apply tough measures, to take the pain, to change the country, and this is a commitment that I think will be demonstrated at this referendum."
Greece's cabinet voted Wednesday to support Prime Minister George Papandreou's shock call for a referendum on the latest bailout plan -- a decision which stunned many European leaders, surprised world stock markets and threw the future of the euro back into disarray.
But Lambrinidis said Papandreou had previously discussed the idea of a referendum with his counterparts from across Europe.
"The prime minister had made it very clear to all European leaders that this was one of the major options he had in his mind, and in that sense it was no surprise," he said.
Lambrinidis said the referendum was a necessary step to secure the long-term success of the eurozone.
"Last Thursday we made an extremely important decision, one that was very helpful for Greece, that cut the debt by 50%... it recapitalized banks, it supported banks.
"Yet a couple of days later, some people in the markets started doubting it again, coming out and saying it wasn't good enough, it wasn't strong enough.
"What Greece and the Greeks need to do is to give a very strong message: Not only of the fact that we have taken and will continue to take extremely tough measures for our country, very painful measures for our people; not only that we are grateful for the loans we are receiving in the process but also that -- once and for all -- we will answer those who are trying to speculate that the country doesn't have the political will to apply changes."
The minister said the final wording of the referendum question had not yet been decided.
"The words the Greek people will be asked to approve will have to do with the new program and the new loan agreement... this is a very positive program for Greece.
"The debate in Greece has been very difficult... this will be an important opportunity for everyone to focus on the important things for Greece," he said.
"Greeks are fanatic supporters of Europe... they are fanatic supporters of the stability of their savings and of their salaries, and these are issues which this loan agreement guarantees."
A date for the referendum has not been set, but Lambrinidis said he hoped it would be held as soon as possible, once the details of the bailout agreement had been finalized.
He insisted the decision to hold a vote was not one which jeopardized the future of the euro -- and that on the contrary, a "yes" would allow Europe to move forward in a more unified manner.
"Europe and Greece are dedicated to safeguarding a very strong currency and a very strong union."