Wednesday

13th Nov 2019

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

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

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.

EU and China agree to defend 'gastronomic jewels'

Manchego cheese, Panjin rice and Polish vodka will all be protected under a new EU-China agreeement. But the two trading giants continue to struggle over other trade-related deals.

News in Brief

  1. Police end Catalan separatist blockade of France-Spain road
  2. Poland arrests extremists for 'planning attacks on Muslims'
  3. Controversial commission portfolio name changed
  4. Catalan party to support new Spanish coalition
  5. Russia jails six Crimean Tatar activists for terrorism
  6. Venice flooded with highest tide in 53 years
  7. Border controls 'the norm' in some EU states since 2015
  8. Netherlands plan to reduce speed limit to 100km/h

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. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  2. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  4. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  5. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  6. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  8. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  12. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.

Latest News

  1. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile
  2. Mustard gas and cod: Last chance to stop Nord Stream 2?
  3. Cultural Battlefield
  4. Nationalists as much a threat to EU arts as resources
  5. Dear President Macron, being a migrant is not a crime
  6. Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says
  7. Pro-Israeli group scores own goal on EU retail labels
  8. New commissioners clear 'conflict of interests' hurdle

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us