Eurozone Warns Greece Over Austerity Delays, Georgiou Prosecution

FILE - Eurozone chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, left, and Director-General for Economic Affairs and Competitiveness Carsten Pillath attend a meeting of European finance ministers, in Valletta, Malta, Friday, April 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)

Eurozone finance ministers told Greek officials to speed up talks over a third review of a staggered third bailout of 86 billion euros ($102.72 billion) and urged the government to stop chasing the former head of the country’s statistics agency who is being hounded.

Andreas Georgiou, who ran ELSTAT and delivered the sobering news in 2010 that Greece needed what turned into three rescue packages of 326 billion euros ($389.4 billion) was twice cleared by Greek courts before a relentless prosecution found him convicted of a technicality even though he was also backed by his European Union and Eurozone peers and the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat and American colleagues.

He said he was being scapegoated for the country’s crisis and moved back to the United States before being convicted in absentia.

The Eurozone finance ministers said the prosecution was sending out a bad signal to prospective investors being wooed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that his ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition can’t be trusted, nor can the country’s statistics.

“Across the room in the Eurogroup, great concern was expressed about the ongoing court cases, the effect that it has internationally on the confidence in Greece and the process of modernization in Greece, including the independence, of course, of ELSTAT itself,” Eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

“That concern was underlined and stressed. But of course the judicial procedures will go their independent ways,” he added, said Kathimerini.

The finance ministers met in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia where Dijsselbloem and the EU’s

Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici noted the Georgiou case’s negative fallout for Greece and the head of the European Stability Mechanism, Klaus Regling also warned of the effect on investors.

The ESM, along with the EU and the European Central Bank make up the Troika of the EU-ECB-ESM that is putting up the third bailout. A previous partner in two first rescue packages of 240 billion euros ($286.67 billion), the Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is where Georgiou had worked.

The finance chiefs said they were concerned about a repeat of foot-dragging by the Greek government which took almost two years to come to terms and agree to further cut pensions and tax low-income families in return for the release of 8.5 billion euros ($10.15 billion) from the third bailout.

The government and envoys from the Troika are now engaged in additional talks that could lead to yet more austerity Tsipras swore to reject before surrendering to the creditors to keep the money lifeline open although his approval rating has plummeted to around 10 percent.

Moscovici said that the Commission is monitoring the situation closely but insisted that the government has no choice but to do as told.

Dijsselbloem added that, “Technical teams are at the moment in Athens, fact-finding and preparing the ground, so that later on the third review can get off to a quick star.”

He said that, “The idea is to finish that before the end of the year. More work needs to be done of course on a number of issues” without saying what they were, par for the course for the Eurogroup and the ministers.