Thursday

26th Nov 2020

Eurostat denies it was influenced by lobbying pressures

  • Luxembourg, home of Eurostat (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU's statistics agency, Eurostat, has denied Belgian accusations that some of its decisions are influenced by lobbying from larger EU countries.

"Eurostat's role is to treat all member states equally," the Luxembourg-based agency told this website in an emailed statement on Wednesday (17 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

On Monday, the European Commission handed member states a proposal to award Eurostat auditing powers in response to doubts over Greek data. The following day, Belgian finance minister Didier Reynders said any increase in Eurostat's remit should be accompanied by an internal overhaul to increase the independence and transparency of the statistics office.

Mr Reynders said he regretted the importance of lobbying in Eurostat decision-making. "I have a few memories from school and, just like in the playground, one doesn't get in the way of the biggest and strongest," he said.

In particular, the Belgian politician pointed to certain Eurostat decisions relating to accounting practices used by telecommunication companies in Europe. "The decisions did not seem quite the same" in different countries, he said.

Commission economy spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said on Wednesday it was unclear whether new Eurostat powers would be accompanied by internal reforms, although he did not rule out the possibility of some increase in staff numbers.

The statistics agency has not been immune from controversy in the past. In 2003, three senior officials were removed from their posts and a number of contracts with outside companies were cancelled after it was alleged that a double accounting system had been used during the 1990s to transfer large amounts of money to secret bank accounts.

"We shouldn't forget that we have also known problems within Eurostat," said Mr Reynders, in reference to a scandal.

Greece

The commission's call for Eurostat auditing powers on Monday follows fresh EU doubts over the reliability of Greek financial data. Having been swept to power in national elections last October, Greece's centre-left Pasok administration quickly revised the country's 2009 deficit forecast figure to 12.7 percent of GDP, more than double previous estimates.

"Reliability and transparency of the main indicators of public finances are a crucial factor," said Mr Tardio.

In 2005, the EU executive body made a similar request for Eurostat auditing capabilities but was rebuffed by member states, who were reluctant to hand over power to the Luxembourg-based body. Observers suggest the current Greek crisis has softened government positions this time round however, although some concerns remain.

Recent news that Greek governments used financial derivatives such currency swaps to hide the true extent of its debt over the last decade have added to doubts.

Eurostat was unaware of the Greek use of derivatives supplied by Wall Street investment banks until news reports broke last week. The statistics agency is still in the dark regarding the scale of the problem, said Mr Tardio.

"This is something we do need to look at very closely. Eurostat doesn't know about these practices so they don't necessarily know what the extent of this happening is," he said.

Greece has until 19 February to give Eurostat information on the currency swaps and in particular how this affected Greek reporting of its debt figures.

Prague outranks Paris and Stockholm among EU's richest regions

Prague outranked Paris, Stockholm and Vienna in a list of the EU's richest regions published on Thursday by Eurostat, the bloc's statistics office. The chart is however based on 2007 data, at the height of an economic boom in the central European state.

Germany asks capitals to give a little in EU budget impasse

European Parliament negotiators are demanding €39bn in new funding for EU programmes such as Horizon research and Erasmus, in talks with the German EU presidency on the budget. Meanwhile, rule-of-law enforcement negotiations have only just begun.

EU budget talks suspended in fight for new funds

MEPs are requesting additional, new funding of €39bn for 15 EU programs. The German presidency argues that budget ceilings, agreed by EU leaders at a marathon summit in July, will be impossible to change without a new leaders' meeting.

EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link

Divisions among EU governments remain between those who want to suspend EU funds if rule of law is not respected, and those who want to narrow down conditionality.

MEPs warn of 'significant gaps' in budget talks

The budget committee chair said the European Parliament expects tangible improvements to the package in its talks with member states - while the German minister argued that the EU leaders' deal was difficult enough.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch far-right leader resigns over antisemitism
  2. Germany to relax corona rules for Christmas
  3. New US leader against hard border in Ireland
  4. EU ties Afghanistan aid money to democracy
  5. EU drug regulator optimistic on vaccine prospects
  6. EU study warns of impact of non-CO2 aircraft emissions
  7. Cross-country MPs urge EU to protect Poles' rights
  8. MEPs adopt group-action consumer rights redress

Budget deal struck, with Hungary threat still hanging

Ultimately, the European Parliament managed to squeeze an extra €16bn in total - which will be financed with competition fines the EU Commission hands out over the next seven years, plus reallocations within the budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. Watchdog slams Commission on BlackRock 'green rules' deal
  2. EU reaches out to nationals of migrant origin
  3. German minister predicts rule-of-law solution in 'days'
  4. EU red-flags Israel's Givat Hamatos settlement
  5. US economic nationalism will be subtler - but it will persist
  6. Georgia's 'rigged' elections? Takeaways for the EU
  7. There is 'no Russia-Turkey alliance'
  8. EU air quality improves, but pollution levels still high

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us