Eurostat needs to put Greek failure behind it

EPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI

The European Union flag waves in front of the Parthenon Temple on Acropolis Hill in central Athens, Greece.

How Eurostat should free itself of the blame of its 2009-10 failure to objectively measure Greece’s deficit and debt in 2009-2010


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We first would like to remind the readers of this newspaper of our two articles published in 2013[1] about the unjustly fixed debt and deficit statistics, which were certified by Eurostat after their rigorous onsite investigation.

While we were waiting for a response on the issues we had put forward, we noticed the establishment of a worldwide fund to collect money to help the former president of ELSTAT (Hellenic Statistics Authority), Andreas Georgiou, cover his court expenses.

This extremely ridiculous fund reminded us of John Gregory Betancourt’s “The Adventure of the Amateur Mendicant Society”, after a fashion. The fund has been undersigned by an 11-member crowd of Eurostat-associated high-level former personnel acting now as EU consultants and members of various EU Committees.

Our opinion: If Eurostat wishes to be respected by European citizens, it has to stop playing games and recognise the fact that it passed the Greek 2009-10 debt and deficit data too carelessly. We think Eurostat should take the only – appropriate for European values – stance: There is nothing more honourable than admitting a mistake and reinstating the truth.

By reflecting on this online call for money, we wonder whether this is Eurostat’s commitment of reciprocity. Beyond this, such a way of collecting money does not go without having legal obligations and of course legal consequences, for which, if not dealt with, who knows what “group of evil interests” might be blamed as having played injustice on Mr. Georgiou.

Worldwide, any person taken to court has to cover his expenses, unless it is proven that he is poor by law or is a person with a disability who begs for a living. Let Mr. Georgiou be first investigated about such weaknesses and then, maybe, his Eurostat friends are justified in accusing the Greek state of acting in an “odious” way by not paying his court expenses for a crime, which, after all, was carried out by Mr. Georgiou as a public servant of the Greek state.

 The fallacy of begging the question dominates Eurostat’s way of thinking

As usual, so also in their digital call, Mr. Georgiou’s Eurostat friends assume as evidence for their arguments the very conclusion they are supposedly attempting to prove. Thus, by writing that they have “followed the developments in Greece very closely”, so they “are strongly of the view that the prolonged court proceedings arise solely from a misguided resistance on the part of many political and other interest groups to the insistence of Andreas on adhering to EU statistical regulation”, they just resort to successive assertions assuming the one as evidence for the other.

Thus, one would agree that if Mr. Georgiou’s friends have followed the developments in Greece very closely and if Mr. Georgiou followed the EU regulations, then some injustice must have taken place against him. BRAVO!

However, neither Mr. Georgiou nor his Eurostat friends did ever prove that he had followed the EU regulations, especially those of the ESA95, as we have already explained in our past 2013 articles, yet unanswered (see fn. 1).

Some carefully hidden facts

Another point we wish to emphasise is that Mr. Georgiou and his Eurostat friends are in the habit of selectively hiding important facts. For example, they hid an early (16 October 2010) email of Mr. Georgiou to Mr. Poul Thomsen, the IMF head of Greece’s Troika lenders, which was publicly revealed in the Greek Parliament.

In this email, Poul Thomsen, as his colleague and friend, was pressured by Mr. Georgiou to impose on Greece’s finance ministry the change of the Greek statistical law through ECOFIN, so that all jurisdiction and responsibilities, which were instituted for the ELSTAT Board, as a seven-member Collective Body, would be transferred to Mr. Georgiou. This email had a notification to Mr. Hallgrimur Snorrason, the Permanent Resident Representative of Eurostat in ELSTAT, and Mr. Per Samuelson, one of the volunteer donors to Mr. Georgiou’s global crowd-funding fund and former consultant of his in ELSTAT.

A second example is the plethora of Eurostat’s interventions in the course of Greek justice, especially through the ISI, an incident of which was the ISI 59thWorld’s Statistics Congress in Hong Kong. The conference started with an open meeting under the title ‘Intrusion of the judiciary in the course of the statistical production of official statistics’, in which ISI explicitly named Greece. Such interventions, and not some evil groups of political interest, have caused the “prolonged court proceedings”, which were in fact to benefit Mr. Georgiou, because of the legal clause of the five-year statute of limitations, which could have resulted in turning one of Mr. Georgiou’s crimes to a statute-barred crime. This did not happen thanks to the Greek justice system’s fast acting.

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About the trick with the European Statistics Code of Practice       

The European Statistics Code of Practice is addressed for implementation “to Governance authorities to provide guidelines” and “to Statistical authorities and their staff to provide a benchmark of statistical principles[2]. In addition, the purpose of the Code is explicitly to serve as “a self-regulatory instrument[3] for the self-improvement of the National Statistical Services of the EU Member States and in no way is it a European Law. But, most of all, the Code is not above the national law. For the purposes of the Code, peer reviews and a self-assessment questionnaire have been established[4].

For the readers’ information, the Code consists of 15 principles and each principle is examined by a number of statistical indices, called indicators[5]. Indicator 1.4 of the first principle “Professional Independence” can be nothing more than a simple ratio having as a numerator the number of those peers, who think that the head of the statistical authority and the heads of its bodies – in the Greek case the then seven-member ELSTAT Board – had actually been independent from political influence, and of course accountable, in deciding “on statistical methods, standards and procedures, and on the content and timing of statistical releases” (see the 2005 Code, then in force)[6], a responsibility which was illegally[7] taken away from the six members of the ELSTAT Board by its president, Mr. Georgiou.

In particular, the indicator 1.4 of the Code, as it stood in 2010, stated: The head of the statistical authority and, where appropriate, the heads of the statistical bodies have the sole responsibility for deciding on statistical methods, standards and procedures, and on the content and timing of statistical releases. Lacking any defensive argument to support why he violated the Greek Statistical law, which had instituted responsibilities and jurisdiction to the ELSTAT Board for the certification of the official statistics, Mr. Georgiou and Eurostat make the absurd claim that, on the basis of the above indicator, Mr. Georgiou could rule, alone by himself, Greece’s statistical system. No more needs to be said.

About the confirmed court cases that Mr. A. Georgiou faces

The court case against Mr. Georgiou on May 19, 2016 includes the following accusations:

  • He lied about having resigned from the IMF, while he had not done so. This violated the law, according to which the president of ELSTAT should not have any other posts, while being president in ELSTAT.
  • He did not call ELSTAT Board meetings, as was his duty according to law.
  • He usurped for his own benefit the responsibilities and jurisdiction described explicitly in the law for the six other members of the ELSTAT Board.
  • He transmitted his own – unchecked by the ELSTAT Board – data to Eurostat, in November 2010. The ELSTAT Board had to approve the official data by the majority rule, as described explicitly in the Greek statistical law.
  • All the above crimes were committed intentionally and in order to obtain for himself and for others moral and financial benefit.

The court case against Mr. Georgiou, on 21 April 2016, about slander, libel and defamation of the former Director of the National Accounts Division of ELSTAT.

In conclusion, we believe Eurostat should not fear any court of justice. The issue with the Greek statistics has to be resolved once and for all, and only by open hearings at the Court of Justice. Mr. Georgiou’s and his Eurostat/ISI friends’ mere statements and the absence of Eurostat’s reservations for the Greek data are not enough. The Greek citizens and the world have to know what really happened and why it happened as the EU Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner, Mr. Joaquín Almunia, said on the 19 October 2009[8]. Let us have an open and deep investigation, as Mr. Almunia then proposed, with no effect though.

Let it happen now through the Greek justice system.

[1] (1) “Eurostat’s failures greatly increase the size of Greece’s debt”, 10 Nov. 2013.

(2) “Eurostat’s crafty ways of collaboration with governmental officials to swell Greece’s public deficit and debt for the period 2005-2000”, 15 Dec. 2013.

[2]  European Statistics Code of Practice Adopted by the EU Statistical Program Committee on 24 February 2005, attached to COM (2005) 217 final (see fn 9).

[3]  See COM (2005) 217 final, Brussels, 25.5.2009, as well as Council Decision No.235/2008/EC (Official Journal of the European Union, L.73/17, 15.3.2008).

[4]  See http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/quality/peer-reviews .

[5]  The difference between statistical indices and indicators is that the latter are based on simple arithmetic operations like a ratio, while statistical indices incorporate a complicated statistical methodology.

[6] The Code was revised on the 28 September 2011, long after Mr. Georgiou’s violation of public duty.

[7] On this matter, Mr. Georgiou violated the national statistical Law 3832/2010 (as it was then in force), in collaboration with Eurostat, especially and in particular with Mr. H. Snorrason and Mr. Per Samuelson, both assisted by highly paid Greek lawyers.

[8] Euobserver, “Revised Greek Deficit Figures cause outrage” (20.10.2009) https://euobserver.com/economic/28853 .

 

 

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