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26th Jan 2020

Brussels joins attack on Greece for false economic figures

  • Greece is coming under "statistical archaeology" (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission today (23 September) joined the chorus of condemnation regarding Greece's false presentation of its economic data.

The Commission's statistical arm, Eurostat, confirmed in statement today huge upwards revisions for the Greek budget deficit in 2000 - 2003, pushing the country above the EU's three percent limit for these three years.

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And Economics and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a comment, "the revisions are of a size and scope that is causing real worries in the Commission".

However, Greece's "suitability" to be a member of the euro zone is not being called into question.

Mr Almunia's spokesman told journalists today, "the decision was made with the best data available at the time ... I don't think there is envisaged any kind of possibility to reopen these kinds of decisions".

Statistical archaeology

Despite this, Eurostat Director-General Michel Vanden Abeele said today that he was sending a team to Athens to verify the figures prior to 2000 - a process he described as "statistical archaeology".

The decision to admit Greece into the euro zone was based, amongst other things, on the deficit figures for 1997-1999 but Eurostat began to notice irregularities in the Greek data from 2002, Mr Vanden Abeele revealed today.

The President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet yesterday described the issue as "a really enormous problem".

More resources, please

Mr Vanden Abeele also made a public plea for more resources for his department. Given the importance of accurate economic statistics, he said, the EU can no longer rely on declarations from member states "which could change with the wind".

He said that a more thorough audit of figures was required but that he had very scarce resources to deal with this - he will be asking the Commission for more.

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