Former official Andreas Georgiou: “I just applied the rules in doing my job as a statistician and then I defended that job”
Somewhere in the euro area, a statistician’s 86-year-old mother may be evicted and her home foreclosed because her son told the truth. It can happen while the European political class, almost entirely, pretends not to see: he is not interested in a persecution that has lasted for ten years, perhaps because it is being consumed in the wrong country. Perhaps the main problem of Andreas Georgiou, the official who disclosed the extent of the falsification of the Athens budget, is to be Greek. The human rights of an equally symbolic figure in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, ultra-nationalist Poland or in the Belarus of dictator Alexander Lukashenko, then probably the leaders of the Brussels institutions would talk about it. They would write protests. They would deliver condemnation speeches.
The return to normal
But in this case, mostly, they are silent. This is about the Greece of 2021, which the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is rapidly reporting in the European Alveo. The premier is capable, efficient and politically very correct. His party, Néa Demokratia, is the same party that some fifteen years ago was guilty of greater forgery in a public budget that recent history remembers. But today it has turned into a modern reform party and it is too firmly anchored in the European People’s Party – the same as the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen – for the Georgiou affair to acquire the dimension of what it is: a political case that no one should be able to ignore. He himself says to the Courier service: «I applied the rules in doing my job as a statistician and then I defended that job. I am the object of persecution for this: I have told a truth that I should not have spoken ».
Georgiou was an official of the International Monetary Fund, chosen in 2010 to recalculate the size of the Greek deficit and debt after the great forgery of previous years. That was his role over the years as president of Elstat, the Greek statistical institute. Since then he has been the subject of continuous legal actions brought by the same Elstat staff who controlled the offices before him. Three times in eight years he was tried for high treason, an accusation that could have earned him a life sentence; in the end he was sentenced to two years in prison (with parole) for having done what European law requires: a realistic review of Greece’s financial statements, without putting them to a vote among those who had made themselves co-responsible for their forgery. The latest initiative against Georgiou, still in progress, is the most grotesque: convicted by an Athens Court of Appeal for “simple defamation” against Nikolaos Stroblos, his predecessor. His fault is having damaged the reputation of the alleged victim – according to the Greek judges – while telling the truth. In 2014 Georgiou had issued a statement in which he defended the accuracy of his audits and it is this gesture that, in the coming weeks, risks costing him the foreclosure of his mother’s house in his name.
In the name of transparency
Stroblos, never touched by legal problems after the false numbers of his management, can now forcefully retaliate on the assets of his successor. Every day that passes the penalty goes up by two hundred euros and to defuse the spiral Georgiou would have to accept a public humiliation. The judges ask him to publish a retraction in the Greek press at his own expense, with a request for an apology and full admission of guilt. An appeal by the former official to the country’s Supreme Court was postponed to January 2023 for the first hearing and to the end of that year for any decision. By then, the account of the alleged “simple defamation” (ie truthful) will have risen to at least 170 thousand euros. So in the silence of European politicians they are trying to destroy a man who brought to Greece the transparency that Brussels demanded at the time. If this campaign is successful, the message would be powerful for everyone. “The stakes aren’t just me. It also concerns the application of statistical principles in producing and disseminating official data – says Georgiou – including the right to defend officially confirmed statistics in the face of destructive criticism ».
September 12, 2021 (change September 12, 2021 | 22:59)