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Europe

Greece Admits Breaking Rules

The Greek Government has admitted that it was in breach of the euro rules at the time of joining the single currency.

According to agency reports, Greek Finance Minister Giorgios Alogoskoufis said in Athens that "it was proven that for no year, from 1999 on, and afterwards, the deficit had fallen below 3 percent [of gross domestic product.]" Countries are not permitted to run a budget deficit above 3 percent of GDP before joining the euro or – in theory – during their membership of the euro zone. However, despite the inaccurate data submitted by Athens, their membership of the euro in 2001 is not in question, according to Commission officials. A spokesman for Economics and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said there was "no possibility" of withdrawing Greece from the 12 country zone although its acceptance was granted on false data. Greece’s budget deficit is forecast to be as high as 5.3 percent this year, following spiralling costs from the Olympic Games, which were recently revealed to have cost twice as much as Athens had budgeted. However, the Greek government has pledged to halve this deficit in 2005. At a press conference, Almunia confirmed that he would recommend to the incoming Barroso Commission to take "infringement procedures" against Greece "as soon as possible." But the decision to admit Greece into the euro zone was "made with the best available data at the time and it [the decision] is not called into question," added the Commissioner. (EUobserver.com)



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