EU backs former Greek statistics chief facing trial


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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The European Union's executive commission on Wednesday publicly defended Greece's former statistics chief, who is facing trial over accusations he exaggerated the government's 2009 deficit, which led to years of bailouts and economic misery.

Former director Andreas Georgiou headed the reorganization of the Greek statistics agency from 2010, after it had earlier hidden the extent of the country's deficits. When the full scale of the 2009 deficit was revealed, Greece had to be bailed out in 2010 by other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

Georgiou is accused by two former agency staff members of overestimating the deficit to the country's detriment for political reasons — to get the IMF to pitch in to the bailout.

But Marianne Thyssen, the EU labor commissioner, said Wednesday that data issued by the agency under Georgiou's leadership between 2010 and 2015 was reliable.

"Let there be no doubt about the correctness and the credibility of this statistical material," she said. "We have to able to rely on the data and be sure that we can count on the data. We have to call on the Greek authorities because they have to actively and publicly to support that."

Thyssen said she had written to the Greek government asking it to uphold the independence of the country's statistical agency.

Asked if the disagreement could affect future bailout payments, she said: "For the moment it is necessary to get the record straight and avoid misinterpretation because this could become dangerous."

In Athens, the government said Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos had responded to the Commission letter.

"The minister of finance and government remain committed to keeping politics out of the public sector and respecting the operation of independent agencies," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said.

The letter to the Greek government was also signed by Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and and Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.

Monitors from the Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank are due in Athens next month for an assessment of progress on Greece's bailout commitments — likely to include a new round of austerity measures.

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Cook reported from Brussels.

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Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos

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Online:

EU Commission Statement: http://ow.ly/r53B303xgGf

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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DEREK GATOPOULOS and LORNE COOK

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