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Sunday 19 January 2020

Eurostat backs Greek number crunchers on government debts

European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen
European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen

Dominic Evans

The European Union yesterday called on Greece to quash what Brussels said were false accusations that the Greek statistics agency rigged data to help foreign creditors and warned that the row posed risks to Athens' current bailout programme.

The Greek government quickly replied that it was "surprised" at the call from the European Commission for it to take a stance on a judicial matter and insisted it respected the independence of the Elstat statistics office.

Despite insisting she would not interfere with national courts, Marianne Thyssen, who oversees the Commission's data agency Eurostat, told reporters that former Elstat chief Andreas Georgiou effectively had no case to answer after the Supreme Court this month reopened an investigation into whether the former IMF economist had manipulated public debt data.

Mr Georgiou, who stepped down in 2015 after five years running Elstat through the height of the Greek and Eurozone debt crisis, has denied suggestions by politicians, including from the current left-wing government, that he may have helped Athens' foreign creditors, including his former employer, by exaggerating Greece's public debt problems.

A year after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras secured a new bailout for Greece from its Eurozone partners, Ms Thyssen said the government must "actively and publicly challenge the false impression that data were manipulated during 2010-2015 period and to protect Elstat and its staff from such unfounded claims".

Failure to do so would damage the already fragile credibility of the Greek state with international creditors. Asked whether it could also jeopardise future disbursements of bailout funds, she declined to speculate. (Reuters)

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