BUSINESS

Under increasing pressure from the EU, Athens expresses faith in ELSTAT

TAGS: Economy, Politics

In what is widely viewed as a turnaround, the government said Thursday it has “full confidence” in the country’s independent statistics agency, ELSTAT, after the European Union last week urged it to publicly challenge the impression that data had been manipulated in the period from 2010 to 2015.

“I would like to say in the clearest possible way that the Greek government has full trust in the data of the Greek Statistical Authority and [EU statistics agency] Eurostat,” Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Houliarakis told Parliament Thursday, adding that the government “guarantees and protects the independence of the [Greek] agency.”In what is widely viewed as a turnaround, the government said Thursday it has “full confidence” in the country’s independent statistics agency, ELSTAT, after the European Union last week urged it to publicly challenge the impression that data had been manipulated in the period from 2010 to 2015.

His remarks follow a week of defiance from government officials, who accused Eurostat and the European Commission of meddling in Greece’s internal affairs after the latter publicly backed the former chief of ELSTAT, Andreas Georgiou, who is to stand trial for allegedly falsifying Greece’s 2009 deficit figure to justify a bailout by the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.

The turnaround also came ahead of next week’s Eurogroup, which is also set to discuss the government’s lack of trust in ELSTAT.

However, in what was seen as a bid to strike a balance between demands by lenders and members of ruling SYRIZA party, Houliarakis clearly avoided refering to data issued before August 2015. He limited himself to saying that the government does not dispute data upon which the August 2015 deal was based.

The Commission had insisted last week that the figures supplied by ELSTAT during Georgiou’s term in office from 2010 to 2015 had the full confidence and endorsement of Eurostat, and called on the government to protect ELSTAT and its staff from such unfounded criticism.

The government’s support for the country’s statistics was a precondition for Greece receiving bailout loans.

The government is faced with an uphill battle to enact tough reforms demanded by its lenders and is in a race against time so that debt restructuring talks can begin by the end of the year.

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