Monday

23rd Sep 2019

EU backs Greek ex-data chief over criminal charges

  • Thyssen: Greek authorities must "actively challenge the false impression that data were manipulated" (Photo: European Commission)

The Greek government must guarantee the independence of its statistics office, the European Commission has said, weeks after criminal charges were brought against a former data chief.

The EU executive said failing to protect the statistics office could be "dangerous" for the Greek bailout programme.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Andreas Georgiou, who headed the Greek Hellenic Statistical Authority (Elstat), was charged for falsifying data between 2010 and 2015.

On 1 August, Greece's Supreme Court said that Georgiou should be tried for inflating figures about the country's deficit and debt.

Under Georgiou, Elstat said that Greece's deficit for 2009 was 15.4 percent of GDP, not 13.6 percent as previously said by authorities. Georgiou's critics say that as a consequence a harsher bailout programme was imposed on Greece.

But EU social affairs commissioner Marianne Thyssen told journalists on Wednesday that it was "absolutely clear that data on Greek government debt during the period 2010-2015 have been fully reliable and accurately reported to Eurostat".

She added that it was "unlike the situation before this period" when Greece underestimated deficit figures.

Thyssen called on Greek authorities to "actively challenge the false impression that data were manipulated" and to "protect Elstat and its staff from such unfounded claims".

She said a letter signed by two other commissioners, vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis and finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici, had been sent to the Greek government.

She warned that failure to "support and preserve the quality of Greek statistics" could have consequences on the bailout provided by the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"This could become dangerous," she said about the situation.

She reminded the Greek government that it had committed to the independence of Elstat as part of the bailout agreed last year.

'Paradoxical world'

Georgiou, a former IMF official, became head of Elstat in August 2010, three months after the first bailout was decided.

Along with two other Elstat officials, he was first charged in 2013, after the Athens Bar Association wrote to Supreme Court prosecutor.

Charges were dropped in 2015 but a Supreme Court prosecutor appealed against the decision. Georgiou later resigned as head of Elstat.

“I feel that I’m living in a paradoxical world where everything is standing on its head," he told the Financial Times earlier this month.

"Those who produce reliable statistics that have been validated many times over by international institutions are persecuted while those who oppose them and were responsible for the fraudulent statistics in the past go unchallenged.

“If national officials cannot keep accurate statistics without fear of being dragged for years through the courts, the integrity of the EU and its economic system is critically undermined.”

Opinion

EU bill on data mining lacks ambition

An EU proposal to let academics digitally sift data is a step in the right direction, but if everybody had that right, the digital market could blossom.

Hungary tops EU anti-fraud investigation list

In its annual report, the EU's anti-fraud agency said it concluded nine investigations into Hungary and found irregularities in seven cases. In total, the agency recommended the recovery of €371m EU-wide.

News in Brief

  1. Barnier: Johnson's plan for Irish backstop unacceptable
  2. Google will only listen to audio if users give consent
  3. German bank fined for cheating Danish tax system
  4. Supreme Court ruling on Johnson on Tuesday
  5. 10 arrests over possible Catalonia anniversary attacks
  6. 53% of Europeans think LGTBI discrimination is widespread
  7. Doubt cast on new Maltese inquiry into slain reporter
  8. March by Slovak Catholics seeks abortion ban

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  2. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  4. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  8. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  10. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  11. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  12. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us