In Greece, A Technocrat Faces Life In Prison | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

In Greece, A Technocrat Faces Life In Prison

Play associated audio

Andreas Georgiou is the technocrat charged with running the Greek statistics office — the same office that, in the years leading up to the financial crisis, produced wildly distorted reports of Greece's finances.

"My goal is to make this a competent, boring institution and not to be in the limelight," Georgiou told me recently. "Not to have to give an interview like this one."

So far, though, his efforts have been met with resistance, strikes and a criminal investigation that could lead to life in prison for Georgiou.

His first priority after he was appointed was to figure out how big Greece's deficit really was back in 2009, when the crisis began. He looked through all the data and concluded that Greece's deficit that year was 15.8 percent of GDP — higher what had previously been reported.

Eurostat, the central authority in Brussels, praised Georgiou's methodology and blessed the number as true. The hundreds of Greek people who work beneath Georgiou — the old guard — did not.

"Everybody said, 'Oh, what number is this?' says Konstantinos Skordas. "We expected to discuss this matter."

Skordas sits on a governing board for the statistics office. His board wanted to debate and vote on the deficit number before anyone in Brussels was allowed to see it. Georgiou, the technocrat, saw that as a threat to his independence. He refused. The number is the number, he said. It's not something to be put up for a vote.

This was not a popular decision.

Georgiou's email was hacked, he says. Statistics workers went on strike, picketing outside the building. And a Greek prosecutor began investigating Georgiou for allegedly acting in cahoots with Eurostat and deliberately trying to make Greece look bad by inflating the deficit number. If Georgiou is charged and convicted, he faces life in prison.

I asked Skordas why Greek officials can't work together with Georgiou and the European statistics service.

"Eurostat is not our boss," he said. "Each country is independent!"

This is not how a technocrat thinks.

"To me there is no Greek statistics versus European statistics," Georgiou says. "It is all European statistics. And we have to follow the European rules. There is not us and them. We are not sitting on opposite sides of the table."

For the euro to succeed, people like Skordas will have to buy into Georgiou's vision. All Europeans sitting on the same side of the table: the technocrats' side.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Novel Explores A Time When A Woman Might Not Live To Meet Her Child

Katy Simpson Smith's novel, set during the American Revolution, was inspired by her research on mothers in the South. "Death was sort of the specter that haunted every aspect of life," she says.
NPR

Nestle Nudges Its Suppliers To Improve Animal Welfare

The world's largest food company is requiring all of its suppliers of dairy, meat, poultry and egg products to comply with tighter animal welfare standards. Animal rights groups applaud the move.
NPR

Week In Politics: James Foley And Ferguson

Regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Reihan Salam of The National Review, discuss the killing of American journalist James Foley and the ongoing conflict in Ferguson, Mo.
NPR

Coming Soon To A Pole Near You: A Bike That Locks Itself

Cyclists may soon have a convenient way to discourage bike thieves, thanks to new designs that use parts of the bikes themselves as locks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.