Race to reform Greek bookkeeping kicks off

The clock started ticking yesterday on Greece’s efforts to reform its accounting practices after the EU launched disciplinary action via a warning letter which gives Athens two months to comply, though officials do not envisage the matter ending up in court. «Although the information provided by the Greek authorities has now allowed to reduce considerably [sic] the elements of noncompliance… [Athens] still needs to address a number of problems in its reporting and control of deficit-related data,» a European Commission statement said, explaining its reason for initiating «infringement proceedings» on Greece’s past faulty budgets. «The purpose of the infringement procedure is to ensure that Greece puts its house in order,» said Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres. The upshot is that the government must find a way to restructure its means of recording economic data, and in particular the role of the National Statistics Service (NSS) – what Commission spokeswoman Francoise Le Bail yesterday referred to as «systemic shortcomings.» This seems to be the bare minimum that the Commission, which also wants to enhance Eurostat’s powers to prevent similar situations in the future, will be content with. «The Commission intends to propose concrete measures to ensure the credibility of the entire statistical system, namely through the adoption of the highest standards as regards the independence, integrity and accountability of the national statistics offices and the reinforcement of the control and inspection capacities of Eurostat,» the statement said. The fact that the Greek government is cooperating and has helped provide more accurate figures is already a step in the right direction, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said. He added that the Commission was not, at this point, examining the possibility of suspending the payment of Cohesion Funds to Greece. The Economy and Finance Ministry, meanwhile, reiterated Giorgos Alogoskoufis’s assertion that Greece was in no danger of having to appear before the European Court.