22 October, 2004
BRUSSELS 22/10/2004 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis, A.Simatos)
The European Union's executive Commission is to make recommendations in November on Greece's fiscal problems, and possibly the country's budget for 2005.
The Commission will state if and to what extent the country's fiscal situation since 1997 has been clarified, and whether the new budget safeguards fiscal revitalization within a year.
The deadline next month was confirmed at meetings in the Belgian capital on Wednesday and Thursday of EU and euro zone finance ministers, which included George Alogoskoufis representing Greece. Alogoskoufis said that the government was at the disposal of EU authorities that will check the country's fiscal situation in past years, in order to clarify nebulous data.
The government, which came to power in March 2004, has welcomed acknowledgment by the Commission that it has made every effort to achieve economic transparency, but the matter should be resolved as Greece's image has been tarnished, according to ministry sources.
Alogoskoufis has said he believes that the country's economic credibility will shortly be restored.
Concerning fiscal 2001, government sources say that the government is willing to retrieve any data needed for the EU enquiry, but feels that a recalculation on the basis of another accounting method would be unreasonable.
In addition, an area of potential friction between Greek and EU authorities is the process of attaining fiscal equilibrium proposed by the government; whether improvements are based on over-optimistic forecasts, and whether tax relief offered next year is seen as counter-productive.
Finally, government sources said that Greece would have no problem in accepting any timescale the EU might set. In a statement released on Thursday, EU finance ministers said that they had been briefed by the Commission on fiscal notification sent by Greece.
The full text of the statement is as follows:
"The Council conducted a thorough discussion on the revisions of Greek fiscal data. It recalled the concerns expressed by ministers during their informal meeting on 10 and 11 September. The Ecofin council of ministers took note of the Commission's information note on the fiscal notification data of Greece.
The Council welcomed the Commission's initiative and looked forward to a detailed report on Greece's deficit and debt data back to 1997 to be presented after examination by the EFC as soon as possible. The Council acknowledged the willingness and efforts of the Greek authorities to work with the Commission to clarify issues and urged them to supply all necessary data to finalize the report before the next meeting of the Ecofin Council.
On this basis, it will be possible for the Council and the Commission as well as the Greek Government to draw the necessary consequences each in its domain, to improve the quality of budgetary data as a matter of priority in order to avoid future problems. Revisions of budgetary data, similar to those that have now been detected in the case of Greece, must not occur again in the Community."
Source: Athens News Agency