EMU entry data still lack clean bill of health

The European Commission is still not satisfied that Greece did not cook its books during the period immediately prior to its eurozone entry, Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said yesterday. Almunia said a visit to Greece last week by officials in the EU statistics service, Eurostat, had failed to clear up doubts regarding the years 1997-99. «The mission could not yet reach a conclusion, and it requested the Greek authorities to provide additional information,» he said. «Until now, this information has only been provided in part. I cannot exclude that another mission to Athens will be necessary.» Eurostat has already revised upward Greece’s figures for 2000-2003, which erroneously showed the deficit to be safely under the 3 percent eurozone ceiling. Almunia confirmed that the Commission is looking into the possibility of taking legal action against Greece over these figures. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, in Luxembourg for meetings of his colleagues from the 12 eurozone members and the 25 EU members, said Greece would strive to bring the deficit below 3 percent in 2005.