Olli Rehn: Greece's statistics were not compiled with sufficient independence

"Greece's statistics were not compiled with sufficient independence to respond to political pressures; instead, there was an attempt to cover up the problems of the Greek economy on the eve of the elections," says European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, in the interview he gave to Statistics Finland's Tieto&trendit magazine.

Greece's mess-up over its statistics came as no surprise to the European Commission: "Long before the current crisis erupted, the Commission on several occasions openly issued a warning about the Greek public economy and the problems connected with its statistics."

However, according to Rehn, who holds the portfolio for the various EU countries' statistics, the Commission was toothless, because it had no power at the time to investigate the figures more closely.

"There were two massive problems with the monitoring system. First of all, it was impossible when monitoring the legal requirements under the Stability and Growth Pact to delve deeply enough in order to get to grips with the budget deficit beforehand. Secondly, the Commission did not have the authority to audit the Greek statistics, based as they were on systematic falsehoods," remarks Rehn.

Now the Commission is quickly trying to enhance Eurostat's auditing powers.

"In June the finance ministries of the Member States accepted this proposal. Once the European Parliament delivers an opinion on it, we will soon see this enter into force. This means that in future Eurostat will have the right to examine public accounts directly if there is reason seriously to doubt the reliability of national data," says Rehn.

See the complete Olli Rehn interview

Last updated 21.7.2010