The EU’s Democratic Deficit is Growing

A Forlorn Decision taken by the European Commission on 17 September 2012

It is a disguised effort to:
(1) promote centralization of power on statistics without accountability and so
(2) silence any voiced doubt about arbitrary statistics

Zoe Georganta

Professor of Applied Econometrics and Productivity University of Macedonia –Economic and Social Sciences

Recent Ex-Member of the Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT) Ratified by the Greek Parliament

20 September 2012

I admit that I was shocked to read yesterday in the online Greek Press that the European Commission (EC) took a Decision on the 17th of September in order to guarantee the independence of Eurostat and the quality of the European statistics. Everybody knows that this has been done a thousand times in the past. What has made the Commission so keen now to repeat previous assertions about the objectivity, independence, efficiency, impartiality, reliability, relevance, cost-effectiveness, statistical confidentiality and transparency of Eurostat and in particular its Director- General? (see Mr. W. Radermacher).

Curious as to the Commission’s motives to go over such old ground yet again I downloaded the Decision and discovered hidden away in articles 7, 8 and 12 what amounts to a complete clamp down, first, on science, including statistical methodologies, standards and procedures for the compilation of socio-economic indices and indicators, second, on basic democratic procedures in the European Union, and third, more alarmingly, on statistical disclosure. Thus, articles 7 and 8 describe the institutionalization of the absolute power of one person, the Director- General of Eurostat, who will govern the European and National Statistics as an Emperor of divine right. Article 12, §3, is the culmination of the Director-General’s near Papal infallibility. Maybe the Pope should take some advice about this from the Eurostat’s Director-General so that he could keep himself on the straight and narrow! I quote, “The Director-General of Eurostat shall, in addition, take all necessary measures to protect data whose disclosure would cause prejudice to Union interests, or to the interests of the Member State to which they relate” (bolding is mine). I am sorry to say that we see this as an exertion to silence any voiced doubt about statistical procedures and arbitrary data. How is prejudice defined, or is it? And what are the “measures” which the Director-General will take against such ‘criminals’ who will dare “cause prejudice” by expressing an opinion different from his about statistical procedures or data. Alas to the Statistician or some person who will dare to criticize the sacred Eurostat’s statistical procedures and probable negligence or error leading to the byproduct of bias and/or arbitrariness in data that may in fact serve political expediency instead of statistical probity. I am wondering: is unchallengeable data and unchallengeable procedures the aim of the European Commission?

Unfortunately, as time goes by, it becomes clearer and clearer that regarding all aspects of life – whether economic, social or institutional – there is regress rather than progress in our fabulous EU. Unfortunately, more Europe has come to mean a widening gap between Bureaucracy and the means by which Democratic institutions can make it accountable. In other words, the progressive enlargement of the democratic deficit and the absence of accountability are two important features characterizing the Union’s Authority structure. In the following sections I will present some more analytical comments on the 17th of September EC Decision and, then, as a European Statistical Scientist who has always taken my degree oath seriously, I intend to disclose data different from Mr. W. Radermacher’s. So to speak, I have done this in the past (www.zoe-georganta.co.uk), why not now. Will he “take all necessary measures” against me for causing “prejudice to Union’s interests”?

1. Comments on the 17th of September EC Decision (numbered now as 2012/504/EU)

1.1. Preliminaries

The above Decision consists of eight (8) pages and 13 articles. The preliminaries of the Document seem designed to bore and confuse the reader by iterating previous policy statements, duplicating references, and presenting general policy platitudes – presumably in the hope that by so doing the reader’s patience will be so severely tested that he will give up. Should he not do so he will find buried in the plethora of bland assertions an attempt to concentrate power on the Director-General and to remove him from any process of accountability. The key paragraphs are as follows:

The EC Document starts with the typical kind of prologue “THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION, Having regard…”, in which the Commission uses 18 bullets. Parenthetically, the usual Brussels and Luxembourg practice to name the same regulation with at least two different spatial references in their documents’ text holds true here as well. After looking the references up, the reader finds out that only within the first five out of those 18 bullets there are reference to seven (7) Regulations, whose real number though is not 7 but 4! For example, although Regulation (EC) No

223/2009 p.1 is the same with the reference OJ L 87, 31.3.2009 p.164, yet both references are made in the Brussels 17th of September EC Decision. I note that one can have access to such “double-faced” references by using either face. I wonder where the EC classifies this reference-handling, maybe into the transparency edifice. It seems though that the EU Bureaucracy is selling the family silver at knock-down prices while striving to maximize profits on the bric-a-brac.

Yet, one thing is beyond doubt: all the first 16 bullets, their references included, deal with old assurances to secure independence, objectivity, efficiency, transparency and the like in the areas of statistical procedures, of socio-economic data and of the hierarchy’s attitudes towards statistics; trivialities, like promotion of “close cooperation between Eurostat and other Commission services on statistical activities” are also included. In brief, the first 16 bullet-preliminaries constitute the theoretical basis of Eurostat’s long-established statistical manifesto. In spite of this, the EC is telling us that it decided to strengthen “independence and reliability of EU statistics” by “Reinforcing Eurostat, Reinforcing high quality statistics” (see headings of Europa press releases RAPID, 17.9.2012), in which the Commission “pledges to uphold the independence of Eurostat and its Director-General in their tasks”. Let us see how they are doing it.

In the last two bullets, (17) and (18), the EC include their Decision’s purpose, which could actually have been expounded without the preceding verbiage testing the reader’s patience. I quote, “It is therefore necessary to further define and clarify Eurostat’s role and responsibilities within the Commission” (bullet 17, the underlining is mine1). More alarmingly, bullet (18) repeals Decision 97/98/EC (21 April 1997), which differs from the newly voted on the 17th of September in two main respects:

  1. (a)  It does not grant papal authority to the Director-General, who as the head of Eurostat (article 2) acts in collaboration with a Steering Committee to coordinate and supervise the Eurostat staff in implementing their tasks (article 4). And this is the pro of the old Decision vis-à-vis the recent one. Thus, the old Decision
  2. (b)  incorporates what is considered some form of accountability attached to the authority of the Director-General. I quote, “Within the Commission, Eurostat, in concertation with the Steering Committee on Statistical Information, is in charge of the implementation of the Community Statistical program, and in particular of: (10 tasks are described)” (article 4).

To facilitate the reader in drawing his or her own conclusions, in the end of this Note I attach the Decision of 17 September 2012 (attachment 1), as well as the Decision 97/98/EC (21 April 1997) (attachment 2) for comparison purposes.

1 The meaning of the word therefore is that what follows comes as a conclusion of the previous discussion. But it is clear as crystal that unless the reader is scrupulous, this therefore is misleading.

1.2. Main Body: The Articles of the EC Decision (17.9.2012)

Article 1 describes the Subject-matter under the “innocent” heading: “This Decision defines the role and responsibilities of Eurostat within the internal organization of the Commission, as regards the development, production and dissemination of statistics.”

With the exception of articles 7 and 8, all the rest describe the old Eurostat manifesto about independence, impartiality, transparency, and so on, exactly as portrayed in the aforementioned 16 bullets. Articles 7 and 8 embody the purpose of the new Commission’s Decision, specifically, the establishment of the Director-General as a papal infallibility. Article 12 is the zenith of the Commission’s sensitivity to democratic values. Paragraph 3 of article 12 introduces quite weirdly the concept of “prejudice” as an offense deserving punishment for those Statisticians who will cause it by expressing doubt about Eurostat’s compliance with its own manifesto of independence, impartiality, transparency and so on. One is wondering whether the EC is short of weaponry to impose censorship of science.2

Regarding democratic values, paragraphs 1 and 2 of article 12 are not less lackluster than paragraph 3 of the same article. Thus, “The Director-General of Eurostat shall take all necessary measures to ensure that statistical confidentiality is respected” (§1), while “other natural persons working for Eurostat under contract” will be included among “officials and other staff of Eurostat” who will be the “only” ones with access to confidential data (§2). In the following section, we will see, among other statistical principles, how confidentiality has been understood by the current Director-General, at least in the case of Greece, where one person’s authority without accountability has distributed personal Census data to various individuals and consulting firms. For the time being, it suffices to wonder whether this new European Commission Decision (17/9/2012) is the fruit of inspiration originating in the Islamic law thus granting the Director-General authority of a high-status mufti to issue fatwas?

Does Eurostat Follow Her-Own Manifesto? The Case of Hellenic Statistics

Let us see a few of Eurostat’s good practices in Greece. For the time being, I am going to briefly tackle only four issues: democratic management/administration, impartiality, transparency and confidentiality.

Management/Administration

A brief introduction: ELSTAT (Hellenic Statistics Authority) was established as an independent Authority in March 2010 by a new law (3832/9.3.2010) which replaced the General Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, as head of the National Statistical

2 The expression “censorship of science” has been borrowed from Thomas Colignatus.

Service of Greece, with a 7-member Board: 4 Board members were to be selected by the Minister of Finance according to professional achievements in the science of Statistics through the so called open-government procedure and then ratified by the Greek Parliament; 3 Board members were to be appointed as representatives of the Minister of Finance, the Bank of Greece, and the Staff Union respectively. All seven members had to be of a high scientific and professional status. The Law 3832 guaranteed the independence of ELSTAT from any outside influence, as well as the espousal of the European Statistics Code of Practice; the Board was made accountable to Greek Parliament. In general, the Law 3832 was quite similar to the Law for the UK Statistics Authority.

The 4 Board members (chairman, vice-chairman, and two simple members) were ratified by the Conference of Presidents of the Greek Parliament on 29 June 2010. It is emphasized that in spite of the urgency of Greece’s statistical situation and the ensuing request to the newly ratified chairman and the Minister of Finance pressed by the three of us (the vice-chairman and the two simple members) in order to start working as soon as possible, at our astonishment we were forbidden even to approach the building of the Statistics Department. The legalization (publication in the Official Gazette) of the ratification process for the 4 Board members was delayed to suit the chairman’s personal needs until August. Thus, the Board’s first meeting took place on the 3rd of August 2010 when we met with the other three appointed members each representative of the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Greece and the Staff Union, respectively.

There was a second surprise: the chairman, who as we later learnt was at the same time an employee of the IMF (Financial Institutions Division, Deputy Chief),3
insisted that our second meeting would be as late as the 3rd of September 2010 in spite of continuing pressures by Eurostat, who was demanding to clear out data issues relating to the General Government deficit and debt for the year 2009. Thus, we, the 6 members of the Board, were sent on compulsory summer holidays! I note that even on the 8th of October (the day of the Board’s last meeting) there was no information on SWAPS, Public Hospital expenditures, Public Enterprises’ reclassification issue and Local Government balance sheets; all this continued as “open issues” as the chairman had announced us on the 3rd of September 2010 meeting (according to my hand notes of the day).

For the whole month of August the 6 members of the Board were kept in darkness, we were not given desks or chairs to sit, we were not even allowed to approach the building of the Statistics Department during August. Later, we learned that the chairman had extensive communication with Eurostat and meetings took place in the ELSTAT building in Piraeus between the chairman, Mr. Georgiou, and Eurostat

3 The statistical law 3832/9.3.2010 explicitly stated that any employment, other than a University professorship position, is incompatible with the 4-Parliament-ratified positions of the ELSTAT Board. In spite of this, the chairman, who at the time and for a year afterwards was an IMF employee, was officially announced as having resigned from his post at the IMF officials. I am wondering whether the Director-General asked about our contribution. May be he did, but we never had such information. What we learnt later was that both the ELSTAT chairman and Mr. H. Snorrason, the Resident Representative of Eurostat in ELSTAT, had defamed us by serious libel, as I will report further down in this Note. The crucial issue is that our opinion was never requested by either the Director- General or the Press.

In the second meeting the chairman started by signaling to us that it had been decided (by whom, we could not understand) that the Board’s role was to be a rubber stamp. We heard him telling us the following outrageous mandates:

  • We had no right to express any opinion about the data, the procedures, or the methodologies
  • We were not allowed even to present a consultation paper, or a research paper in the forthcoming World Statistics Day in Athens
  • The chairman would not accept any proposal by the members of the Board for any topic to be included in the agenda of the monthly meetings for discussion
  • The Minutes would include only what the chairman himself would decideAfter a huge verbal struggle to increase the frequency of the meetings, even having an informal meeting in order to resolve our 6-to-one problems of within-Board communication, we managed to make the chairman invite a second monthly meeting (20th of September). This was achieved after “threatening” the chairman, Mr. Georgiou, that the vice-chairman was given the legal right to invite a meeting if he could get 4 out of the seven Board members to agree. Needless to say what happened that day. I am letting you know just one of the facts: the chairman suggested a vote to be taken on a topic which was not included in his agenda; this was the topic of the ELSTAT budget, for which, more interestingly as we learnt afterwards, he had already taken the approval signature of the GAO (General Accounting Office) as if we had discussed it and agreed on it!

    Our last meeting took place on the 8th of October 2010. It is noted that the meetings material (200-400 pages) were sent to us by email in the midnight of the previous day or the early morning hours of the day of the meeting itself, presumably in the hope that by this procedure we will sign without reading!

    We tried in vain to let the Greek government, the Parliament, the Eurostat, even the IMF understand the incredible situation in which we were involved because of the apparent inability of the chairman to be reasonable in the least. He had actually announced war against us and against the personnel for no reason (this is what we thought then). At the same time, he was going to international press accusing us of trying to falsify the data taking advice from some “hidden” powers, implying the government! To this, he was immensely helped by the Permanent Resident Representative of Eurostat in ELSTAT, Mr. Snorrason, who was also the vice- chairman of the ISI (International Statistical Institute).

After the 8th of October 2010 the chairman with the encouragement of Eurostat (as I will explain later) and the compromising attitude of the Ministry of Finance marginalized the 6-member Board completely, illegally and undemocratically. So, free from our annoying questions, on the 15th of November 2010 Eurostat announced that Greece’s public deficit was the highest in Europe: 15.4% of GDP, which later became 15.8%. No explanations, no studies showing the numbers, NO TRANSPARENCY, NO OBJECTIVITY, NO INDEPENDENCE4. However, Mr. Radermacher, the Director-General kept assuring the globe about how perfect the Greek Statistics is now under the leadership of Mr. Georgiou!

The mutation of the 7-member Board into a 1-member Board: The Resident Representative of Eurostat in ELSTAT, Mr. Hallgrimur Snorrason, offered his technical help to the ailing chairman of ELSTAT by promoting the change of the statistical law 3832/9.3.2010 in order to legitimize the strengthening of the chairman’s, Mr. Georgiou’s, power. A lot of scheming and plotting lead to the change of the law in December 2010 at the immense satisfaction of Mr. Georgiou. In spite of this change, Mr. Georgiou refused to invite a meeting of the Board. It seems that somehow he had to justify this decision of his. So, at the our requests his response was that the vice-chairman had gotten into his (Georgiou’s) computer and had stolen a personal email of his (!) and as a consequence the new situation had to be cleared out.

The Board never met again, and the statistical law was changed again and again, last changes taking place in September 2011. It is still ONE-PERSON’s BOARD or ONE MAN’s AUTHORITY in spite of the provision of, even, the modified law to the contrary. Parenthetically, the current statistical law still incorporates a multi-person Board, sadly though because it is rather a caricature of a really independent Board who should act as a watchdog responsible for keeping an eye on official statistics. I will discuss it in another Note.

It is distressing that the initial 2010 statistical law, which was enthusiastically received by everybody because it introduced for the first time the design of an independent and democratically functioning statistical system, was forced to mutate into a horrendous ONE PERSON’s AUTHORITY by Eurostat’s model of “independency”, which translates into “forced blind belief in one-person’s authority going without any sort of challenge and accountability”. Needless to say that the same “independence” model has been adopted for Eurostat’s structure in the EC Decision of 17 September 2012. As a matter of fact, the modified Greek statistics model has nothing to be jealous of the 17th of September 2012 Eurostat’s managerial formula: one infallible Pope. My remark: but even the Pope has cardinals to advise him, hasn’t He? Sadly, “hoi polloi” have no place in the EU’s authority structure. We can’t help reminding the EC of Albert Einstein’s saying, “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth”.

4 There cannot be independence of any Organization unless it is governed by more than one person and unless there is accountability.

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One last question: In which European country the Statistical Authorities are One- Man’s Authority, and not only this, but: in which country in Europe there is one and the same person alone as Head of both, the Statistics Authority, whose role is to supervise the national statistical system, and its executive arm, the Office or Institute of Statistics? I am afraid this happens ONLY IN GREECE with the help of Eurostat.

Impartiality

I think it suffices to look at just one incident of Eurostat’s understanding of impartiality. Mr. Hallgrimur Snorrason, an Icelandic pensioner, is not only the Permanent Resident Representative of Eurostat in ELSTAT, but, as I said above, he is also a vice-president of ISI (International Statistical Institute). Under his latter capacity, it seems he was the one who advised the president of ISI to send a letter to the Prime Minister of Greece exhibiting partiality of the highest degree in favor of one person (see here, as well as TColignatus letter). Mr. Snorrason has actively intervened in changing Greece’s statistical law 3832/9.3.2010 in order to increase the power of the ELSTAT chairman vis-à-vis the other six members of the ELSTAT Board. He has also used libelous statements in order to defame members of the Board and make sure that Mr. Georgiou’s incorrect management style and wrong statistical approaches go on unchallenged. His defamation and scheming activities were done in secret emails, which the Greek Justice system uncovered. If the reader thinks that this is an unsubstantiated allegation, let me show you the attachment 3 and attachment 4 at the end of this Note. You can thus see that Mr. Snorrason has in fact been a sycophant, as well as a conspirator and trouble-maker in ELSTAT. Director-General, Mr. Radermacher, has also exhibited partiality of the highest degree since he seems to have welcomed libel, slander and scheming, refusing to listen to the other side. And the question raised is the following: how can one trust that Eurostat, in its enhanced role of power centralization and complete absence of accountability, will be impartial?

Transparency

Non-Transparency is the greatest issue in Greek statistics and it has virtually been supported by Eurostat. Let us see some incidents of Eurostat’s violation of the principle of transparency, but also of distortion of statistical science:

Public Corporations have always been classified in the non-financial corporations’ sector (account S.11). This was absolutely in agreement with European Regulations, ESA95 – European System of Accounts of 1995, and it has been substantiated by Georganta (1 – in Greek, soon in English). Eurostat had scrupulously checked the legitimacy of the S.11 classification for all previous years and they NEVER had raised any question for reclassification. What motivated them to demand a reclassification of 17 institutional units from the account S.11 to S.13 (the General Government) all of a sudden in late 2010? The methodology for Government Deficit and Debt has not changed (see Georganta, previous reference, section 2, in Greek, soon in English).

The reclassification of Public Corporations from S.11 to S.13 needlessly augmented the public debt with €18.214 billion. It included 17 institutional units, some of which may not fulfill the criteria to be named Public Corporations at all. This reclassification took place by totally non-transparent ways, which were supposedly justified because of the urgency situation to get out some numbers for Greece! Would you please take notice of: The misery of a nation was the result of some urgently needed numbers, no matter how arbitrary.

In particular, there was no investigation about the required fulfillment of the ESA95 provisions and criteria. No statistical study or supporting evidence for this reclassification has seen the daylight. When members of the Board asked questions, they were marginalized, defamed and finally sacked. Why so much secrecy about the way the numbers were calculated? If Eurostat had checked the required studies for the 17 institutional units they reclassified into the General Government sector, why they did not advised the ELSTAT chairman, Mr. Georgiou, to display them when the Board asked for them?

And it is not only the €18.214 billion of illegitimate loading on Greece’s public sector debt for the year 2009. What about the additional €5.4 billion of the 2001 SWAP which at the time of agreement with Goldman Sachs was not supposed to be classified inside the General Government? Why Eurostat completely secretly was talking about it only with Mr. Georgiou, who had marginalized not only the six members of the Board, but also the knowledgeable Directors in ELSTAT replacing them with persons who due to their non-specialization could be pliable? In fact, Eurostat has loaded Greece’s public debt with over €21 billion of the Goldman Sachs SWAP of the year 2001, retrospectively! An additional €3.8 billion of hospital expenditures non-verified for their legitimacy and covering a number of previous years were illegitimately classified in the 2009 public debt.

I would like to go backward in time, to let you know what happened on the 19 and 20 October 2009, when the newly appointed Minister of Finance of the 5th of October new socialist Greek government, announced in Luxembourg during the meeting of the 16 ministers of Finance of the eurozone that the Greek deficit could reach at least 12% of GDP. Then the Commissioner Ioaquin Almunia said:

In spite of his true anger and correct on the spot proposal, Mr. I. Almunia did not pursue his announcement. Why? The answer is simple: according to Eurostat’s

“We want to know what has happened and why it has happened,” he said, indicating that the Commission, Eurostat and the Greek statistics office would be getting together shortly to discuss the issue. “Serious discrepancies will require an open and deep investigation,” he added (see EU Observer, 20 and 22 Oct. 2009, “Revised Greek deficit figures cause outrage”, by Andrew Willis).

manifesto of “independence, objectivity, transparency, impartiality” and the rest wonderful verbiage, in practice Eurostat was “persuaded” or rather adjusted to what the Greek Ministry wanted: an unjustifiably augmented public deficit, which has been shown to be unsubstantiated and non repayable. Since then, sunny Greece has been under clouds without a silver lining.

Confidentiality

Let us see an instance of how the principle of confidentiality is understood by Eurostat. It is not a secret that the chairman of ELSTAT has tried very hard to put his wrong-doings regarding the methodologies and timing of the Population and Housing Census of 2011 right (click here). For his efforts he used indiscriminately private firms – domestic and foreign; personal consultants – domestic and foreign; even a huge number of public servants from various Ministries. He named all these people “groups of the census verification”. This is an outrageous violation of confidentiality which is regulated by the “UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics”, noting that Eurostat has essentially copied her manifesto from the above mentioned United Nations (UN) document.

A number of questions are raised: Who has guaranteed that all these people involved in “verifying” Greek citizens’ personal data are not going to sell the personal information of those naïve Greeks who trusted ELSTAT to give details of their lives for the Population and Housing Census? Has Eurostat guaranteed it? In my knowledge they have not. What has the Permanent Resident Representative of Eurostat in ELSTAT, Mr. Snorrason, to say, apart from his plotting and scheming and libeling behind the backs of the ELSTAT Board in 2010 and 2011? And why these people’s names are not transparent?

Incidentally, in spite of all his efforts, which included a French “expert”, the chairman of ELSTAT came to an amazing figure for Greece’s population (immigrants included): 9,903,268 people. It suffices to report the following:

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Table 1: Some interesting numbers

2001 Census

10,934,097

2011 Census (announced: August 2012)

9,903,268

2011 Census (announced: July 2011)

10,787,690

EU estimate for population 1.1.2011 (announced: 28.7.2011)

11,329,600

EU estimate for net immigration between 2001 and 1.1.2011 (announced: 28.7.2011)

358,940

Births-Deaths (between 2001 and 2011)

39,472

Electoral Catalogues (June 2012, not including ages below 18)

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9,850,802

Non-EU immigrants (Eurostat estimation)

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800,000

Immigrants (Various researchers in Greece)

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1-3 mill

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Table 2: Total population should be equal to 11,332,509

2001 Census

10,934,097

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EU estimate for net immigration between 2001 and 1.1.2011 (announced: 28.7.2011)

358,940

Births-Deaths (between 2001 and 2011)

39,472

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TOTAL

11,332,509

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Difference from ELSTAT census (August announcement)

1,429,241

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What does Eurostat have to say about the following:

  1. ELSTAT’s announcement of the 2011 population count in August 2012 is lower from its announcement in July 2011 by 884,442 persons, or by 9% of its most recent magnitude!
  2. Under the very moderate assumption that net immigration in Greece during the decade 2001-2011 was 358,940 persons, the ELSTAT chairman has underestimated Greece’s population by 1,429,214 persons or 13% of the population!
  3. ELSTAT’s population count of 9,903,268 persons implies that Greece’s population below 18 years of age is equal to 52,466 persons or 0.5% of the total population!
  4. ELSTAT does not have a count, or even an estimate of immigration!
  5. Has Eurostat checked that Greece’s Population-Housing Census was wronglydesigned from the beginning? And the wrong designing was decided by the chairman who would not listen to either the Board or the experienced staff of ELSTAT.

For the crucial importance of Population-Housing Census, I would advise Eurostat to have a look at this, (in Greek, soon in English).

EPILOGUE

I am not against the EU, but I am against the widening of democracy gap and the deepening of the absence of accountability. I am against the censorship of science and against the antediluvian economic doctrines of Germany’s leadership.

Moreover, we have to always bring in mind that Greece’s structural problems is one issue, and the unduly augmentation of her public deficit for the crucial year 2009 is another issue, which is different and very dangerous for Europe. It needs a deep, detailed and, most importantly, transparent reexamination and those people of Eurostat who may be responsible for the 2009 deficit’s augmentation from 4% to 14.6% have to be severely penalized.

“More Europe” HAS TO MEAN
“More Accountable Democracy and More Justice”

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Attachment 1 (4 pages) – see them here

My Comments

This is one of the many emails that Mr. Snorrason sent to the Director-General, Mr. Radermacher, and other EU people, notifying also the chairman of ELSTAT, Mr. Georgiou. This letter consists of 3 pages and it was sent on the 18th of September 2010, just 2 days before our 3rd and last but one, Board meeting. The subject of this email is: ELSTAT from bad to worse.

For the reader’s information, Mr. Snorrason had not shown any interest to meet the Board members until Mr. Georgiou was pressed by the Board to invite him in our second meeting so that he could present himself and his job description to us. Alas, we were disappointed: During the 5 minutes that Mr. Snorrason presented himself to us, he said that he was a pensioner from Iceland and that he was in Greece with his wife. He also said that he wouldn’t like to go back to Iceland or Brussels or Luxembourg because there was no light there. So he would like to stay in Greece as long as he could. He did not say anything else, he did not even ask us who we were or how we were envisioning ELSTAT, or anything of professional interest to us, and after these few words he asked to go and of course Mr. Georgiou let him off. That was all. I know that the Vice Chairman, Dr. Logothetis, insisted to see him a number of times and that he tried to have a professional discussion with him, letting him also know about our problems with Mr. Georgiou. As far as I know, Dr. Logothetis’s efforts were not met with enthusiasm resulting in something similar to what happened when Mr. Snorrason presented himself to the Board on the 3rd of September 2010.

I would say at this point that we pressed Mr. Georgiou to let us come into the ELSTAT building on days different from the meeting days and also have a chair and a desk. Particularly, myself and Prof. Philippou used to come to Athens-Piraeus from our residences in Thessaloniki and Patras, respectively, and we had no office space to even read the hundreds of pages that Mr. Georgiou was emailing us the early hours of the meeting days. So, Mr. Georgiou gave us a common room with chairs, desks and one computer. That room was opposite Mr. Snorrason’s room. I must say that I had observed that quite often Mr. Snorrason was not his room, particularly when there was sunshine. Since he had a craving for it, he probably was in Aegina, a nearby island, enjoying the sun with his wife! Or, maybe he was busy with other activities. But, we never saw a piece of statistical work from him.

Parenthetically, when Mr. Snorrason writes VP he means “Vice President”. In Greek, the word “proedros” means both, chairman and president.

What Mr. Snorrason’s email to Mr. Radermacher shows:

1. Mr. Snorrason is a liar of first degree. The issue of “pay rise for staff” was NEVER put forward for discussion (1st paragraph of the email). Not even the representative of the staff Union did ever ask something like this. It is a ridiculous libel. The issues between us and Mr. Georgiou were always about the deficit and debt data and procedures, and about our role as rubber stamps that him, Eurostat and the Minister of Finance were trying to impose on us. By the way, we (the 6 members of the Board) worked for ELSTAT without any payment, we were not even compensated for our travel expenses! How much is Mr. Snorrason paid above his pension? I must tell you that Mr. Georgiou is paid quite elegantly: according to what he has said in the Press, he is receiving an IMF pension at the age of 50 and, most interestingly, after he completed his 25 years at the IMF, but, by working for ELSTAT. He also receives a handsome salary from the Greek state and other side subsidies which go, or don’t go, with the job.

I suppose Mr. Snorrason invented this lie to facilitate Mr. Georgiou’s arguments for his inability to manage ELSTAT.

2. Mr. Snorrason has distorted truth in all he says to Mr. Radermacher and others. After all, he could not do differently; he was present when the VP discussed with the P. But, Mr. Snorrason knew what the VP discussed with him; why he does not say about what he knows and he likes talking about what he does not know. Impartiality in its culmination (see Eurostat manifesto).

3. Mr. Snorrason and Mr. Georgiou, according to Mr. Snorrason, are trying even the conspiracy theories in order to fight against science, against transparency, against objectivity. Thus, Mr. Snorrason writes, “The insinuation about graft is by Mr. Georgiou thought to show that these persons are not alone in this, that they have some support somewhere in the system” (page 2, 2nd paragraph from the end).

I am not surprised that Mr. Snorrason and Mr. Georgiou cannot understand that there may be people who act really independently, without any “support somewhere in the system”. I cannot though understand the stance of the Director-General, who has refused to talk to the other side, and who has accepted such an open partiality or “prejudice”.

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Notes
Thanos is a friend of Mr. Georgiou’s, lecturer at the Law School of the Kapodistrian

University of Athens, specialized in Mass Media Law.

Perry Samuelson was another law consultant, who was appointed secretly by Mr. Georgiou to contribute to the change of the statistical law 3832 along the lines desired by Mr. Georgiou’s appetite for power. Accidentally, Mr. Samuelson came to me to help him with the essence of Greek-English expressions in the law 3832. This was the day I found out that Mr. Snorrason and Mr. Georgiou were busy changing the law, instead of looking at the debt-deficit data and the statistical requirements of the Population-Housing Census and the Agricultural Census, both inadequately completed.

http://zoe-georganta.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/European-Commission-Decision-prejudice1.pdf

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