The European Union’s finance ministers have called on Greece to return as swiftly as possible to within the limits of the bloc’s stability and growth pact. This was in the context of confirmation that when Greece joined the euro zone, as the twelfth member, its budget deficit and debt were too high. No disciplinary action has been suggested but the country’s finances are under surveillance.
Greece gave incorrect figures for the years from 1997 to 2003. The latest review of the percentages submitted by the socialist previous government found them way off, much higher, at one period more than double the budget deficit limit of 3% of national income. Greece is at around 5.3% today. The European statistical office, Eurostat, worked on the new calculations, having also validated Athens’ accounts before Greece joined the euro in 2001, a year later than the other single currency states, after its frantic economic and monetary reform efforts. If the real figures had been known, it would probably have had to wait. As it was, Greeks got the single currency in their hands at the same time as the citizens of the 11 other euro members, many of whom since then have exceeded the limits as well.