ECONOMY

EU: Greece is a serious concern

The European Commission is following the economic situation in Greece «with serious concern,» the bloc’s designated economy commissioner, Olli Rehn, said in Brussels yesterday. Rehn was addressing the European Parliament, which began grilling members of the EU executive body ahead of a vote on their appointment scheduled for January 26. Greece’s public deficit, which skyrocketed to 12.7 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, has raised concerns about the long-term stability of the EU’s finances and smooth functioning of the single currency at a time where other states also show fiscal shortfalls above 3 percent of GDP. «The Greek government is aware of the seriousness of the situation, and the Commission is following the situation with serious concern,» said Rehn. The Finn said, «It is essential that the Greek government presents shortly, in the next few weeks if not in the next few days, a comprehensive package of policy measures» to remedy the situation. Turning to Greece’s successive revisions of fiscal data in recent years, Rehn said he has asked his staff to study the case of Greece in regard to its statistical system and its functioning. «The problem is very serious and therefore corrective measures need to be taken,» he said. «I’ve asked for information concerning other member states,» Rehn said. «The information I’ve received is that Greece» is an exceptional case. Meanwhile, International Monetary Fund representatives are expected to start a weeklong visit to Athens tomorrow to see whether they can provide technical advice on pension reform, tax policy and budget management. The mission is part of regular surveillance, the IMF said in a statement. The officials are expected to meet with representatives of several Greek ministries including those of Finance, Labor and the Economy.