No more deficit shocks for EU

As EU statistics officials left Athens yesterday after examining public deficit figures from 1997 to 1999, the Greek government denied that the European Commission had rejected its draft budget for 2005, which aims to reduce the deficit back within the eurozone limit. The Eurostat experts were on a two-day visit to Greece in order to inspect figures for the years leading up to the country’s adoption of the euro. An audit of the 2000 to 2003 public accounts had already led to the Greek public deficit rising substantially above the eurozone limit of 3 percent of GDP for each of those years. This inspection, however, proved to be relatively painless, a source told Kathimerini. It is thought that the deficit for 1999, which was the year the EU officials were most concerned about, will be revised from 1.8 percent of GDP to 2.4 percent. This is not considered to be a significant rise and is due mainly to 900 million euros of defense spending not being recorded properly during that year. In all, some 1.2 billion euros of arms expenditure was not included in the three-year period examined. Eurostat will announce the official results of its latest audit in the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the government rejected claims that the European Commission had disagreed with its draft budget for 2005, the main aim of which is to reduce the deficit from a projected 5.3 percent of GDP to 2.8 percent. «There is no basis for saying that the budget has been rejected by Brussels as it has not been submitted yet. We have informed the EC about our aims, that’s all,» said Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the Commission had not examined Greek proposals, adding they would be discussed at a meeting of EU finance ministers on November 16-17.