MEP’s criticism stirs up a storm

Ruling New Democracy expressed strong annoyance yesterday at criticism of the government’s controversial fiscal review by one of its own MEPs in a Sunday newspaper interview, but stopped short of disciplinary action. Commenting on the remarks by Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos, carried in Sunday’s Eleftherotypia, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the 52-year-old European Parliament deputy had been speaking for himself. «Mr Dimitrakopoulos’s views are clearly personal, and are not in tune with the policies of this government which, apart from anything else, was voted in to tell the Greeks the entire truth regarding the country’s finances,» he said. «The government condemns these statements.» In comments eagerly seized upon by the PASOK major opposition party, which has been strongly critical of the fiscal review, Dimitrakopoulos described ND’s handling of the matter as «unfortunate and ignorant.» He said the fiscal review – which dismissed Greece’s past budget figures on the deficit and the public debt as PASOK book-cooking – should not have been openly conducted under full European Union scrutiny. But Roussopoulos defended the auditing. «It was necessary for reasons of substance,» he said. «First, so that Greeks should know the true state of the economy… and secondly because the European Union had cast doubt on the figures provided by the previous government as early as 2002.» Roussopoulos declined to comment on whether there was a question of expelling the MEP. However, sources within the ruling conservative party indicated that senior officials, including ND secretary Vangelis Meimarakis, had called for Dimitrakopoulos’s head to roll. The MEP is understood to have informed party officials in the past about his feelings on the matter, but nobody expected him to go public in the way he chose. Asked about Dimitrakopoulos on Sunday, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis responded: «Who’s this?» Yesterday, Meimarakis said the matter was «over.»