Ecofin metes out blame for deficits to previous government, Eurostat and ECB

The European Union’s Economy and Finance Ministers’ Council (Ecofin) yesterday approved the recent Commission report on excessive Greek budget deficits since 1997 – as revealed by a Greek government revision earlier this year – and apportioned blame primarily to previous administrations but also noted failures on the part of Eurostat and the European Central Bank. «The scope and size of the past revisions in the Greek case are so unprecedented and very serious, particularly as regards the overall credibility of the multilateral surveillance framework,» the council said in its conclusions. According to the revised figures, Greece’s budget deficits exceeded the prescribed limit of 3 percent of GDP in all the years in question. This year’s deficit has been upped from the 1.7 percent calculated by the previous PASOK government to 5.3 percent. «The (Commission) report makes it clear that the Greek statistical authorities have for a long time not provided accurate information to Eurostat. They also suffered from a serious lack of capacity to provide the required data,» Ecofin said. The council also adopted the Commission’s criticism of Eurostat for validating critical data submitted by Greece in March 2000, despite significant related open issues. Further, it noted that the Commission and the European Central Bank had failed to emphasize to the council potential problems with regard to Greek budgetary statistics. Ecofin acknowledged «the initiative of the Greek government and its close cooperation with Eurostat.» Greek Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said the issue is now closed and that he was happy with the council’s conclusions.