Return to Transcripts main page


Christiane Amanpour Joins Italian Navy Rescue; Ukraine Facing Tough Economic Challenges; Trouble in the Birthplace of the Arab Spring; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 20, 2015 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: an exclusive CNN report from on board an Italian navy vessel rescuing hundreds of migrants in the

Mediterranean. Also ahead, Ukraine in further financial dire straits. The economy minister joins me live as violence continues to rage in the eastern

part of the country. And Tunisia's president in Washington for talks. Can his country win the battle against extremism? A senior government adviser

joins me on the show.


GORANI: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the show. I'm Hala Gorani in for Christiane Amanpour.

In a moment, the crisis to the east of Europe as Ukraine and Russia step up their economic war, I speak to the Ukrainian finance minister


But first, another grave emergency in the south of Europe in the Mediterranean. Thousands of migrants are risking their lives, attempting

to cross the sea in rickety boats and dinghies, often paying huge sums to people traffickers. This week the European Union approved plans to

establish a naval force to combat people smugglers operating from Libya, a military operation, in fact.

Christiane is currently on assignment on an Italian navy ship involved in the rescue of migrant boats off the coast of Lampedusa. We will have

more on her exclusive report on the show tomorrow. But a short time ago I had an opportunity to speak to her via a satellite phone from the vessel.



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Well, Hala, I'm joining you from the bridge of one of the Italian navy's most modern frigates, a warship that is

also rescuing migrants and today we went by this ship, by speedboat and by helicopter and they rescued 290 migrants who came from Eritrea because when

they got off the boat, when they were taken up on to another one of the warships, I asked from where did they come, these were all from Eritrea.

They were some 174 men, about 77 women and a couple of dozen children. It was an extraordinary scene. And to be here to bear witness to this is an

extraordinary scene when you see the amount of effort the Italian navy is putting in to this humanitarian effort as it is right now.

GORANI: And what happens to the migrants now?

AMANPOUR: Well, it's an extraordinary complex process. It takes quite a long time to rescue a boat of 300 people. They have to check.

They have to make sure that there's nothing hostile on board. Then all the naval personnel suit up in white hazardous material suits with masks and

gloves. You all have to do the same thing in order to make sure that you don't get contaminated by any potential disease, any illness.

But we did see one of those who tried to get across to safety today in this small, rickety boat was dead on arrival and three others were taken to

the helicopter on the island of Lampedusa. So they were given emergency care then. But the rest of them will be staying on board until they can be

offloaded at Lampedusa or somewhere else and then processed on land.

GORANI: And we're seeing some of the images there from that rescue. We see you as well, speaking to some of the migrants.

What were some of -- were you able to get some of the personal background stories of some of them? And why they are attempting such a

dangerous crossing that that is how high their level of desperation is?

AMANPOUR: Well, it really is. And I asked a woman and a gentleman why, why take this risk. And each one of them said, look, we have no

opportunity, no possibility at home. And this they were talking about Eritrea, that our government, they say, is abusive and we have no rights

and it's very difficult.

The woman said that they were very scared when they got on the boat and they were just praying and I guess they thought they had had their

prayers answered when the navy basically rescued them. So it is people taking their lives in their hands, getting on these boats. They've either

been peddled a bunch of lies from the human traffickers who advertise that this is a comfortable and reliable trip from Libyan ports across the

Mediterranean where, of course, it isn't, or they just basically say to themselves, as the gentleman told me, I would rather risk this than death

at home.

GORANI: All right, Christiane, thanks very much, Christiane Amanpour there witnessed and is reporting on a rescue of migrants in the


Tune in for a special edition of AMANPOUR with an exclusive report on that rescue live from Lampedusa on Thursday. That's at 7:00 pm in London,

8:00 pm Central European Time on CNN.

Now it isn't making as many headlines, but we turn east to Ukraine, where optimism is an elusive commodity these days. Officially there's a

cease-fire in the country's east. But in reality, at least 83 Ukrainian service men have been killed since the Minsk agreement in February along an

untold number of separatists and civilians.

Kiev claimed this week it captured two Russian soldiers. It displayed them for the cameras in a Kiev hospital. You see the footage there. But

the government in Kiev is fighting on a second front, an economic one. The situation is so dire that Ukraine's parliament dropped a bombshell on

Tuesday, allowing the government to stop paying off its debts. The country's economy shrunk a whopping 17.6 percent in the first quarter year-

on-year and corruption, the second war, as President Poroshenko calls it, remains endemic, scaring away investors.

The person tasked with keeping Ukraine's ravaged economy afloat is Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, and she joins me now live from Kiev.

Well, that is quite a list of things you have to worry about, Natalie Jaresko, your economy's shrinking, your currency collapsing, debt

repayment's becoming a bigger and bigger issue.

Where do you start?

NATALIE JARESKO, FINANCE MINISTER, UKRAINE: Well, I think we have begun already. The first step was in negotiating and reaching an agreement

with the IMF on a four-year extended fund facility. But that $17.5 billion credit package has to be married with a debt restructuring and that debt

restructuring needs to bring us over $15 billion in savings over the next four years.

GORANI: Now as I mentioned, your currency is collapsed and inflation as well above 60 percent in some cases. What practical steps are you

taking to try to alleviate those specific problems?

JARESKO: Well, with regard to inflation, a big part of that inflation has to do directly with the depreciation of the currency, which we

unfortunately suffered in the first quarter and second quarter. So this program itself has helped us to restore the reserves, restore confidence.

And the currency's been relatively stable over the past 6-8 weeks. That's a big part of fighting inflation.

A second part is our fiscal effort and attempts that we've made comparing year 2014 to this year in reducing our budget deficit, reducing

the deficit of the state oil and gas monopoly that we also financed and trying to reduce the pressure on the economy.

All of this is going to require additional work in particular. Please, go ahead.

GORANI: No, no, sorry, I -- sorry to jump in. I know Russia is also very unhappy about this measure to essentially give Ukraine itself the

right to stop repaying its debt and it's saying it's going to take its case to the courts.

Is that something that Ukraine would consider doing then, just simply stop repaying some of its creditors?

JARESKO: Well, our first and foremost goal is to have a good faith collaborative effort and reach a restructuring agreement. We have three

targets we need to meet with this restructuring. And those three targets are going to require a maturity extension and some combination of coupon

and nominal debt reduction.

The reason for that is because we need to achieve medium-term debt sustainability within the next four years. We need to return this economy

to a position where it can grow. And that's only going to be possible through restructuring.

The measures that the parliament took yesterday ,which I welcomed, are a tool in the toolbox. And with all due respect, we hope not to have to be

able to in that situation. But it's an eventuality that we may face if we can't bring the creditors and that we're talking onto a reasonable solution

to a rapid solution that meets those three targets

GORANI: But you're in a tricky situation here because of course your biggest trading partner, according even to your own president, you're at

war with that country in the eastern part of Ukraine.

These are -- one could say -- temporary solutions to restructure the debt. The longer-term solution is as you well know, has to be increasing

revenue and creating growth that way through a resumption of normal trade relations with Russia, right?

JARESKO: Well, I think resuming growth is definitely the answer and our goal is to resume growth into 2016 and definitely part of resuming

growth is attracting investment, both domestic and foreign.

But our trade needs to be diversified. Our trade needs to remain -- we need to remain open to trade in all directions and we need to have

competitive environment that allows for that trade.

I think right now our goal is to use and make best advantage of the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement and association agreement that

we've signed with the European Union. Today Ukraine represents like never before one of the best platforms for manufacturing and export into the

European Union that exists.

GORANI: Corruption, of course, is still a major problem in Ukraine and some analysts over the last year since the election of your president,

Petro Poroshenko, have asked publicly more and more whether or not he's the man for the job.

Is the president the man to get Ukraine out of its cycle of corruption, to kickstart the economy, to solve the issue with the civil war

and the warring factions in Eastern Ukraine?

JARESKO: Well, I think this president, this prime minister and this coalition in our parliament are exactly the group that not only have been

charged but are actually taking the steps to battle corruption and to bring this country back on an economic footing. On corruption, we started this

battle in the area of policy so we've introduced transparency into government financing. We're starting to open databases, government

databases, to our citizenry. We've opened the battle on the front of high- level politicians. We've established a national anti-corruption bureau. It has wide-ranging law enforcement mechanisms at its disposal.

We've also started to really remove and charge multiple high-level, mid-level, low-level government officials to create that fear that

corruption has a price.

Aside from that, though, for the average everyday citizen, we've done something that I think is critical. We've started the reform of our

traffic police so that the average citizen driving their child to school on Monday morning will not be stopped by a corrupted police official. That

starts in Kiev here in June and then rolls out to every one of the cities, over a million, during the course of the year.

And then finally I think it's very important we've talked about this, the president has outlined this and the prime minister has outlined

deoligarchization, in other words, creating a level playing field amongst business tycoons in this country. We've started that process first with

the transfer pricing law that doesn't allow businesses anymore to take their profits abroad. And second with laws that give the state -- has

regained control over its assets regardless of who the minority shareholder is.

GORANI: All right. Natalie Jaresko, Ukraine's finance minister joining us from Kiev, thanks very much for being with us this evening on

the program and on CNN.

The crisis in the Mediterranean is also fueling security concerns. Italian police have today arrested a Moroccan man suspended of being

involved in Tunisia's Bardo Museum terror attack in March. And it's been revealed he crossed the Mediterranean on one of those migrant boats. The

details coming up.

Plus we'll delve deeper into Tunisia's battle against extremism. The country's former foreign minister joins me next.




GORANI: Welcome back. Take a look. This is the 22-year-old Moroccan man arrested today in Italy, Touil Abdel Majeed. Tunisian authorities say

he is one of the dozens of militants who helped plan and carry out the March attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis which left more than 20 people

dead. The attack at Bardo's extremely troubling for Tunisia. It is the birthplace of the Arab Spring of course, where hope first sprang for

democracy and prosperity and freedom.

Tunisia had to have been a success story but hope is fading across the region as extremists are gaining power and luring young people to join the

cause. Tunisia's president is in Washington today and tomorrow he'll meet with President Obama to ask for his support in keeping Tunisia on the right


Here now is Tunisia's former foreign minister, Dr. Rafik Abdessalem. He's now a senior party adviser to the Ennahda Party.

Thank you for joining us, sir. Let me first ask you about your -- for your reaction to the arrest of the suspect in the Bardo Museum attack who

apparently was on one of those migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean and was found in Italy.

RAFIK ABDESSALEM, FORMER TUNISIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, this is good news that people are involved in the attacks of Bardo are arrested in

Italy. It is quite clear that there is no countries immune from the terrorism. Tunisia is at the end of the day successful story compared to

other countries on the region who made the good progress in the political perspective. We faced a lot of challenges and threats but on the sea

facing about, I think Tunisia is moving forward. And one of the difficulties that facing is the rise of terrorism due to the illusion of

environment. We are facing a very delicate environment due to the political crisis in different parts of the Arab world.

GORANI: There are two contradictory narratives when it comes to Tunisia. One is that relatively speaking your country is a success story.

It's managed a relatively stable political transition. But the other one is that Tunisia is the country that supplies ISIS with the most number of


What's going on? Why are some Tunisian men attracted to groups like ISIS?

ABDESSALEM: Well, I think this is due to the political crisis in the region. If you look at the Arab world, maybe the eastern part of the Arab

world, we have deep political crisis and division, sectarian conflict, religious conflict that's affected the whole regional environment,

including Tunisia. But I think I said before Tunisia made good progress. It is a successful story to other countries of the region. But I think the

terrorist groups is the -- are the byproduct of the previous regime. We suffered for a long decade, two decades or more from political opposition,

religious and political vacuum. This young generation who are attracted to terrorism are the byproduct of the previous regime. And typically they

benefit from the weakness of a state, a parity state institutions after the revolution. But I think things are moving forwards. We are in process to

be our security and defense forces and to protect our borders and to face any kind of --


GORANI: Sorry to jump in. The attack on the Bardo Museum that was carried out in such a sophisticated way, killing all these foreigners in

Tunis, that's not something that worries you in the wider grand scheme of things?

You don't think that this means that Tunisia is at risk of becoming -- of falling victim to a sort of Islamist chaos?

ABDESSALEM: No, not at all. It worried me and it worried all politicians in the country. But we have to look at the wider political

picture. Of course we faced threats of -- threat of terrorism, bearing in mind that terrorism is becoming a global and regional problem facing

different countries, including mature democracies like United States and Britain. We are not an exceptional case.

But I think Tunisia is moving forward. Of course, we need to face terrorism by security measures. But in the holistic approach to

marginalize extremist voices and to face them in a tough way. This is one of the mission of the previous governments as well as this government.

GORANI: What about this post-Arab Spring period where, for instance in Egypt, we have a military government; in your own country, the president

has ties to the old regime. So this Arab Spring that people hoped for a while would produce democratic governments, would produce freedom, in the

end in many cases has meant a return to the old guard.

Why is it happening and does it concern you?

ABDESSALEM: Well, I think if you are not 100 percent succeed, the Arab Spring is one -- not a 100 percent succeed. But to say that 100

percent failed is not accurate. Of course there is polarization of the region between the forces of change, the forces of stagnation. The reason

you see wavering between the forces of democratization and the forces of totalitarianism, but I'm fully convinced that the region as a whole is in

the process of political transition. It's not easy to move forward. But I strongly believe it is not possible to go back to the previous era, which

is based on authoritarianism and political oppression.

GORANI: Even though, for instance, Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically elected president in Egypt was just sentenced to death?

ABDESSALEM: I think we fully condemned the sentences against Mohammed Morsi, who took power in 2012 through democratic means. If there are

mistakes in democracy could only rectified by democratic, peaceful means, there is no doubt there was a coup d'etat in Egypt. And Egypt is in the

deep crisis. The only solution is to sit on the table and to reach a political consensus.

I think the crisis not only -- or the trouble is not only with the Muslim Brotherhood or what is called political Islam, it is a real

political crisis due to the military conduct and due to the military interference of the political scene. And the only solution is to reach a

consensus between different components of the conflict.

GORANI: All right, with an optimistic viewpoint, thank you very much, Farik Abdessalem, of the Ennahda Party and a former foreign minister in


Tunisia's battle against terrorism and now to an intriguing revelation about the reading habits of the world's former most wanted terrorist. U.S.

intelligence has released a list of English language books recovered during the raid on the Pakistan compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding.

Among the collection, a brief guide to understanding Islam. In fact, the title is "A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam." "Obama's

Wars" by investigative journalist Bob Woodward, who blew open the 1972 Watergate scandal. Also on OBL's shelf, a couple of tomes by Noam Chomsky,

the intellectual and long-standing U.S. foreign policy critic.

Coming up next, going beyond borders again. We imagine a world where Australia is welcomed into the world's largest and longest running song





GORANI: And finally tonight imagine a world where Europe sings its way right through diplomatic tensions. It is the wacky world of the

continent's singing competition that this year is traveling a little farther than ever before.


GORANI (voice-over): It's that time of year where the world says bienvenue to Eurovision. This Saturday, the extravaganza that gave birth

to global pop sensation Abba is celebrating 60 years of the world's largest song contest.

Days were lighter than air pop meets hard-core diplomacy. Last year, Austria's contender, Conchita Wurst, an openly gay drag queen, triumphed in

what was seen as a victory for LGBT rights. The reigning champion returned to her country after a year traveling the world, meeting with the likes of

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And Vienna honored its bearded queen with a message of unity via its traffic lights, showing the stop sign

(INAUDIBLE) phobia by adding on same-sex couples to its signs.

This year's message of building bridges has extended far beyond the confines of the continent as Australia enters the ring, invited to the

context because of its passion for Eurovision and its large community of European immigrants.


GORANI (voice-over): But it won't be a waltz in the park. They're up against some tough competition among the pop balladeers. Some predict that

Norway, the country with the most ever newel points results, where a song gets not a single vote but reached the heights of euro pop success. But so

far the semifinals have seen attention lavished upon Serbia's "Beauty Never Lies" while Russia's ode to peace and equality, "Million Voices," is also a

favorite to win. It has won high praise from the homeland already where a riot police chief has created a bizarre tribute video set to the song.

Contestants will face off in Vienna on Saturday as the grand finale takes place and as Abba would say, the winner takes it all because with the

trophy comes the honor of hosting the contest next year.


That's it for our program tonight. And before we go, a reminder about the special show tomorrow. We brought you a snippet earlier. But here's

the full story from Christiane. She's currently on board a vessel in the Mediterranean as the Italian navy rescues some 290 migrants. That's

Thursday at 7:00 pm in London, 8:00 pm Central European Time. It will be live from the island of Lampedusa.

But for now, remember you can always see the show on line at and follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @halagorani. Thanks

for watching and goodbye from the CNN Center.