Contradicting Greek prosecutors who want an investigation into whether Greece’s statistics agency ELSTAT manipulated numbers in 2009 to force the country to seek an international bailout, the European Commission said the agency’s head, Andreas Georgiou, gave accurate reports.
The European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, said that fiscal data from 2009 onward provided by ELSTAT have been correct, a day after prosecutors asked for Georgiou, to face a criminal inquiry.
“Eurostat has been clear that it finds the revision of the Greek public finance data for 2009 by the Greek statistical office, ELSTAT, to be reliable and that the compilation of Greek data followed all the EU rules applicable and which all member states are bound by,” said Emer Traynor, a spokesperson for Commissioner Algirdas Semeta, who is responsible for taxation and customs union, audit and anti-fraud.
The decision to refer Georgiou and two other ELSTAT officials to a special magistrate has caused surprise in Brussels and concern in Greece’s coalition government. He was appointed by the then-ruling PASOK Socialist administration headed by Premier George Papandreou.
“As a result, Eurostat’s been able to publish the government data on deficit and debt, which has been transmitted by ELSTAT without reservation since November 2010, which was not the case in previous periods,” Traynor added in response to a question from the newspaper Kathimerini. “We see this as reflecting the very significant progress that has been made in the quality of public finance data which has been transmitted by Greece as a result of new and strengthened procedures that have been put in place,” Traynor added.
The head of Eurostat, Walter Radermacher wrote to a Greek parliamentary committee in March last year to underline problems with the reliability of the country’s statistics between 2004 and 2010, and to emphasize that the reform of ELSTAT led to the agency gaining independence and greater trustworthiness.
Georgiou’s accuser, ex-ELSTAT official Zoe Georganta, claimed in a radio interview on Jan. 23 that Greece’s deficit figure for 2009 should have been under 4 percent. The last time the Greek public deficit came in below 4 percent was in 2001.
Georgiou, who spent nearly two decades at the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s Troika of lenders along with the European Union and European Central Bank, was first accused in 2011 by Georganta. She said that the agency’s official figure for Greece’s 2009 budget deficit was deliberately manipulated to more than 15 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.