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EU violating Greek constitution in statistics row, says Greek minister

Greece's parliament

A Greek minister accused the European Commission on Thursday of violating the country’s constitution when it called on Athens to quash allegations that its former statistics agency chief had rigged data to help creditors.

The intervention by Deputy Justice Minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos added fuel to a spat between Athens and the Commission over former statistics chief Andreas Georgiou.

Georgiou, a former International Monetary Fund statistician, was highly regarded in Brussels when he ran the Greek statistics agency ELSTAT during five years of economic crisis until 2015.

But he is now in court, facing accusations – which he denies – that he may have helped Athens’ foreign creditors, including his former employer, by exaggerating Greece’s public debt problems.

Vouching for the data submitted by ELSTAT from 2010 to 2015, which were validated by EU statistics office Eurostat, EU Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen on Wednesday called on Athens to actively challenge impressions that data were manipulated. A letter was sent to Athens to this end.

“The letter … directly violates not only Greece’s constitution but the European institutional (laws) as well,” Papangelopoulos said.

“(EU officials) effectively are asking the Greek government to intervene in the independent Greek justice system in favour of Mr. Georgiou, who is being probed for possibly having committed culpable acts,” he said.

Thyssen, who oversees Eurostat, told reporters on Wednesday that Georgiou had no case to answer.

Georgiou was appointed head ELSTAT in 2010 with a mandate to restore the credibility of Greek statistics a few months after the country’s debt crisis erupted.

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