19 March, 2005
Eurostat on Friday revised upwards Greece's fiscal deficit to 6.1 percent of GDP in 2004 and the country's public debt to 110.5 percent of GDP over the same year.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in its report on EU member-states' fiscal condition, said Greece's fiscal deficit was the highest in the EU-25, followed by Malta (5.2 pct), Poland (4.8 pct), Hungary (4.5 pct) and Cyprus (4.2 pct). Only six EU members reported a fiscal surplus last year. Denmark (2.8 pct), Finland (2.1 pct), Estonia (1.8 pct), Sweden (1.4 pct), Ireland (1.3 pct) and Belgium (0.1 pct). The EU's average fiscal deficit was 2.6 percent of average GDP, while Eurozone's average deficit was 2.7 pct in 2004.
Greece's public debt was also the highest in the EU, followed by Italy (105.8 pct), Belgium (95.6 pct), Malta (75 pct) and Cyprus (71.9 pct). The average public debt in the EU was 63.8 pct of average GDP, while in the Eurozone was 71.3 pct.
Greece's fiscal deficits were 3.6 pct in 2001, 4.1 pct in 2002 and 5.2 pct in 2003, while its public debt was 114.8 pct, 112.2 pct and 109.3 pct, over the same period respectively.
Eurostat, in its announcement, said it could revise again data for Greece, Italy, Portugal, Latvia and Lithuania in the future.
Greece's Economy and Finance ministry on Friday said that Eurostat's figures on the country's fiscal deficit and public debt over the last four years reflected the heritage of fiscal disorder and irresponsibility left to New Democracy's government by the previous PASOK governments.
Commenting on Eurostat's data, showing Greece's fiscal deficit at 6.1 pct of GDP in 2004, the country's Economy and Finance ministry said the government was cooperating closely with the European Commission to promoting fiscal transparency and to address past problems, such as recording EU funds' inflows, unrecorded state hospitals' debt to suppliers and Olympic Games' spending.
The EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner's spokeswoman on Friday said figures released by Eurostat concerning Greece's fiscal deficit and public debt were not final, and noted there were issues needed to be clarified between the EU's statistics agency and Greek authorities.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Almunia's spokeswoman said the European Commission expected a strict implementation of Greek budget this year, while she noted that following Eurostat's data, Greece's fiscal adjustment effort would be higher than original estimates.
She stressed that an ECOFIN council agreed to activate Article 104G against Greece over the country's excessive fiscal deficit and noted it was the first time that an EU member-state entered this particular stage of the process.
The main opposition (PASOK) party on Friday accused the government of being unable to manage state finances following release earlier in the day by Eurostat of Greek budget deficit figures.
"This confirms the New Democracy government's total inability to manage Greece's state finances," PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said in a statement.
"The government is submitting new data for 2000 and 2003 adopting an accounting method for hospital debts that it had rejected for defense spending. The government should explain this," Athanassakis said.
In a separate statement, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros responded that the current administration had inherited unpaid bills from its predecessor.
The debts left by the PASOK government covered hospitals, defense, Olympics projects, and election pledges never included in the 2004 budget, Antonaros said.
"PASOK should make a major apology to the Greek public for the massive deficits and debts that it left behind," he added.
Source: Athens News Agency