Eurostat has ‘deep concern’ about Greek statistics developments

The European Union’s statistics office said it was watching with “deep concern” developments in Greece, where the head of the statistics agency faces felony charges over reporting of the country’s 2009 budget deficit.

Hellenic Statistical Authority data submitted under its current chief, Andreas Georgiou, “have repeatedly passed the stringent quality checks applied by Eurostat to ensure full compliance with European law,” the European Statistical System, an association of national statistics agencies and Eurostat, said in an e-mailed statement Thursday.

Last month, Greece’s economic prosecutors charged Georgiou and two other officials from the agency with inflating the 2009 deficit figure. The country sparked Europe’s debt crisis after former Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government was elected in October 2009 and revealed on taking office that the shortfall was bigger than thought. It was eventually determined to be 15.6 percent of gross domestic product, more than five times the limit allowed under EU rules.

“We are encouraged that in Greece, many important steps have been taken in recent years to reinforce the credibility of official data,” Luxembourg-based Eurostat said in the statement. While it respects the independence of the judicial system, it is concerned with political debate in Greece about developments that “affect not only the integrity of official statistics in that country, but also the functioning of the European Statistical System as a whole.”

Georgiou said in a statement on Jan. 24 that Greece’s decision to seek an international bailout, granted three months before he assumed his post in August 2010, was based on data compiled by his predecessors. He promised to continue to produce all Greek statistics in line with EU law.

“It is striking that a criminal prosecution for ‘erroneous production of the public finance statistics of the country’ did not take place when ‘Greek statistics’ were a constant source of concern,” Georgiou said. [Bloomberg]

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