A Statistician’s Ordeal: The Case of Andreas Georgiou
30 September 2019
For the past eight years Andreas Georgiou, the former head of Greece’s statistics agency (ELSTAT), has been prosecuted by powerful elements within the Greek judicial system. In the run-up to euro area membership in 1997–9 and up until the Greek debt crisis erupted in late 2009, successive Greek governments failed to comply with EU statistical rules, understating the fiscal deficit and debt in order to appear broadly compliant with euro area commitments. The term ‘Greek statistics’ came to mean inaccurate, deliberately massaged statistics. When the Greek crisis erupted, euro area member states demanded accurate statistics as a prerequisite for considering any form of financial support. Mr. Georgiou was recruited from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and appointed head of the newly independent ELSTAT in August 2010. He brought Greek statistics into full compliance with EU rules for the first time, yet the Greek judicial system has hounded him for years instead of going after those responsible for the previously fudged ‘Greek statistics’.
The Georgiou case tested the independence of the Greek judiciary, as some senior prosecutors and judges would appear to have repeatedly failed to act in accordance with the rule of law and due process. Examples abound: Mr. Georgiou was tried (in camera) three times for allegedly ‘inflating’ the deficit of 2009—the year in which Greece plunged into an unprecedented debt crisis that prompted the first of three stabilization programs funded by the EU and the IMF. His detractors claim that Greece was forced to face harsher conditionality and larger loans because the deficit was revised upwards, thus helping to justify externally imposed austerity. The Appeals Court dropped the charges three times, but the first two acquittal decisions were annulled by the Supreme Court.
It would seem that, in annulling the acquittals, the Supreme Court jud