EU member state statistical offices have finally rallied behind Andreas Georgiou, the former IMF official at the head of the Greek statistical agency, Elstat, and his co-workers who face jail terms of up to five years for allegedly inflating the budget deficit figure in 2009.
Under a different boss, Greece notoriously massaged its figures in order to enter the eurozone. Georgiou was brought in from the IMF in order to head up an independent agency but appears to have fallen victim to a desire to find scapegoats for Greece’s plight.
Georgiou stands accused of undermining the national interest, according to the Financial Times.
The investigation, which lasted 15 months, has finally stirred EU statistics agencies, who on Thursday issued a “Statement of the Members of the European Statistical System on recent developments concerning ELSTAT in Greece”.
“We the undersigned, who collectively as members of the European Statistical System Committee are responsible for overseeing the production of European Statistics to be in compliance with the highest professional standards throughout the European Union, wish to express our deep concern at recent developments with regard to ELSTAT in Greece, which we believe can affect not only the integrity of official statistics in that country, but also the functioning of the European Statistical System as a whole,” said the statement.
Dropping a big hint that they believe the criminal investigation is politically motivated they said, “we are concerned that political debates surrounding judicial action taken against the Head of the Greek statistical office (ELSTAT) and the calling into question of the validity of data which have repeatedly passed the stringent quality checks applied by Eurostat to ensure full compliance with European law seem to disregard commonly agreed European procedures.”
They noted that production of European Statistics on the basis of common rules and standards is the main task and objective of the European Statistical System (composed of Eurostat and National Statistical Institutes of EU/EFTA Member States).
In particular, they said, “statistics of high policy relevance, such as public finance statistics (including figures on deficit and debt), are produced according to very precise standards, under a strict European legal framework and fall under a special scrutiny procedure.”
They added that to achieve the maximum comparability of public finance data across the EU, the data are subject to close scrutiny before final approval by Eurostat.
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