Updates on Justice for Andreas Georgiou, Former Head of Greek Statistical Agency

Andreas' Speech at the European Parliament
Update posted by Maximilian Reisch On May 31

Dear Friends of Justice for Andreas Georgiou,

On Tuesday May 29, 2018, Andreas participated in a meeting of the Financial Assistance Working Group of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. Andreas was invited to participate in that public meeting in order to have an exchange of views regarding "the latest developments on the investigations concerning official statistics in Greece". A similar meeting had taken place in November 2016.

Members of FAWG expressed their sympathy and concern about the ongoing prosecutions for about 7 years now and the wide implications of the prosecutions. It is to be seen if and what steps they may take.

Andreas made the following opening remarks to FAWG on Tuesday:

Honorable Chair, Honorable Members,
Thank you for the invitation to discuss here with you today. I would like to
express my gratitude for the concern many of you have expressed regarding
the prosecutions that I and my former staff have experienced over the past
seven years for adhering to EU rules and standards.
The main points I would like to make today are the following:
1. The prosecutions are continuing despite, all the evidence and proof
provided in court and despite even logic
2. EU institutions are financing Greece and considering debt relief for it
with statistics for which the Supreme Court of Greece has repeatedly said
there are grounds to believe they were manipulated and misreported.
This situation raises fundamental governance issues for the EU
3. It would be logical to expect that the ongoing prosecutions in Greece will
create even more incentives in Greece, and potentially other EU Member
States, to misreport European statistics when doing so is deemed
politically convenient
4. The Greek legal framework must be strengthened to protect from
prosecution official statisticians who produce European statistics
according to EU rules
5. Unless the prosecutions stop, the EU institutions and stakeholders will
increasingly bear responsibility for these prosecutions as well as for
any misreported statistics that may arise as a consequence of the
prosecutions
I am not happy to report all this. But Greece—which I love dearly—will leave
its troubles behind and prosper only if there is a firm commitment to credible
official statistics. And this commitment will not be there—irrespective of
anything that may be declared or signed—as long as the relentless prosecution
of statisticians who followed European statistical law and statistical principles
continues.
During my five years as President of the National Statistical Institute of
Greece, that institution was effectively rebuilt and European statistics in
Greece were produced according to the Law and fully applying the statistical
principles in the European Statistics Code of Practice: professional
independence, impartiality and objectivity, commitment to quality and other
principles. This provided indispensable support to the efforts to achieve
economic stability, reform and renewed prosperity in Greece and the EU.
As a result of ELSTAT’s actions during my term, the reliability of the official
statistics of Greece was finally established. For 10 consecutive semiannual
publications during November 2010 – April 2015, Greece’s deficit and debt statistics received no reservations by Eurostat. I should note that before
November 2010 there were for many years nearly continuous reservations
formally expressed by Eurostat and direct interventions by Eurostat to correct
misreported statistics.
And yet these same deficit and debt statistics—so central to Greece’s future—
that consistently received no reservation in the period 2010-2015 are being
challenged within Greece with respect both to their accuracy and to the
processes with which they were produced. More pointedly, I and others have
been subjected to an onslaught of criminal prosecutions and civil cases for
nearly seven years now. These include among others:
1. Criminal charges against me and two senior managers of ELSTAT for
the revision of the 2009 deficit and alleged damage to Greece of 171
billion euro. A conviction carries potential life imprisonment. The Greek
Supreme Court recently annulled again my acquittal by the Appeals
Court Council in this case. This is the second time the Supreme Court
has annulled the acquittal decision of the Appeals Court Council. As a
result, the case against me and my two co-accused former staff will have
to be considered for a third time by the Appeals Court Council in closed
trial—notably under a different composition of the Council—to decide
yet one more time whether to subject me and my former colleagues to an
open trial. This means another 1-2 years of legal procedures without
including the time needed for any potential open trial that may come at
the end if there is no acquittal. 2. Criminal charges against me for alleged violation of duty.
Following three acquittal proposals by investigating judges and prosecutors in
2013, 2014 and 2015, that were rejected, I was finally tried in open trial
in December 2016 and acquitted unanimously by a three member First
Instance criminal court, with the concurring proposal of the prosecutor.
Ten days later the verdict was annulled by another prosecutor, without
even having seen the written decision and rationale of the acquitting
court. I was subsequently subjected to a double jeopardy trial by the
Appeals Court and was found guilty of violating my duty for not
submitting the 2009 deficit figures to the approval by vote of the then
existing board of ELSTAT. And this was despite the fact that the
European Statistics Code of Practice is crystal clear that the sole person
responsible for statistical production and dissemination decisions in the
head of the statistical authority—we do not vote on the statistical figures
in Europe! I have requested the Supreme Court to annul my conviction—
which carries a 2 year in jail sentence, suspended for three years, unless
I get another conviction. The decision of the Supreme Court is pending.
3. A criminal investigation that was launched on the 1st of September 2016
repeats the same accusations about the 2009 deficit as the felony case I
mentioned above–but this also levies accusations against Eurostat
leadership and staff as well as IMF staff.
4. A charge of criminal slander, for which I was convicted in June 2016 to
12 months in prison for “simple slander”—a Greek legal category, which
effectively means that what I said was true but I should not have said it.
That suit has ended, but only because the statute of limitations had expired.
However, a companion civil suit against me will continue. The
civil suit went to trial in October 2016 and I was convicted to pay
damages and to publish with my name and at my own expense a public
rectification in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini. I have appealed the
decision to the Appeals Court and the case will be heard on October 4,
2018.
All these prosecutions are clearly serving the interests of various political
groups that have a keen interest in keeping alive their perverse narratives about
the sources and responsibilities for the Greek crisis, irrespective of the costs to
Greece and beyond.
And these prosecutions are taking place despite the fact that:
1. The methodology used in the calculation of the 2009 fiscal deficit is the
one being used today by Greece. It is the basis on which all
disbursements of EU Member State and IMF funds to Greece have taken
place since 2011
2. Any post-program surveillance by the Commission, the ECB and the
IMF, to be effective, will have to be based on that same methodology
3. The corresponding government debt sustainability computations are the
ones currently used by Greece to ask its Eurozone partners for debt relief,
and the European stakeholders and the IMF are considering that request
based on that statistical methodology, and
4. Any accessing of the markets by Greece in the months and years ahead
will take place on the basis of borrowing needs calculated with that
methodology, which is being challenged by the courts. It is an overt contradiction
and a serious risk to the legitimacy of European
institutions and other EU and international stakeholders to work with an
economic adjustment cum financial assistance program whose fundamental
data are repeatedly challenged by the highest Greek Court itself as manipulated
and misreported. How is it possible to ignore the decisions of the Greek
Supreme Court? The implications for EU governance and accountability in the
use of EU taxpayer resources are self-evident.
It is also self-evident that the perverse incentives for official statisticians in
Greece (and beyond) created by the prosecution of those who followed EU
rules will sooner or later lead to a reemergence of fraud and misreporting of
European statistics as in the pre-2010 years. This risks serious consequences
for the EU as well as Greece. The incentives created here are poisonous.
Would the responsibility for allowing such incentives to arise burden only the
Greek State or also EU institutions and other EU stakeholders that are willing
to live for years with this situation, which gives rise to these incentives?
There is an urgent need to protect Greek official statistics production, by
legally shielding Greek official statisticians from prosecution for their
European statistics and the processes they used to produce them, when these
products and processes have been validated by the competent EU institution as
being consistent with EU regulations and statistical principles. There is a need
for a legal provision to be adopted to this effect, which will cover past, present
and future official statisticians, in an effort to reduce the already heavy damage
inflicted on the incentive structures of Greek official statisticians from the
relentless prosecution of those that followed EU rules. The seven-year old prosecutions
in Greece against European statistics compiled according to EU law and statistical
principles have enormous and wide-ranging implications for Greece, the EU and the
world community. Such prosecutions do not belong in the democratic EU and they damage the EU.
The responsibility for the prosecutions and their implications also increasingly lies
with the EU.
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