Greece used false figures for euro entry

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The Independent Online

Massive errors in economic data sent by the Greek government to Brussels emerged yesterday, prompting suggestions that Greece might never have been entitled to join the euro had the figures been known.

Massive errors in economic data sent by the Greek government to Brussels emerged yesterday, prompting suggestions that Greece might never have been entitled to join the euro had the figures been known.

The admission prompted calls for tighter controls before a wave of Eastern European nations try to join the single currency.

The confusion is thought to stem from the way in which Greece spread the financial burden of paying for a multibillion-euro jet-fighter contract. However, even these accounting problems may not explain the size of the discrepancy, thought to run to up to 2 per cent of gross domestic product.

Athens is already in the dock for breaking the central rule for eurozone nations: that their budget deficits should be below 3 per cent of GDP. In May Greece changed its calculation for the 2003 deficit from 1.7 per cent to 3.2 per cent of GDP.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported yesterday that Greece is to submit revised budget data which show it had broken the EU budget deficit limit every year since 2000.

Alexander Radwan, spokesman for the centre-right bloc of MEPs on the parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, called for a re-examination of earlier data - for 1998 and 1999 - on which Greece's fitness for the single currency was assessed.

He said that the revelations suggest that the decision to admit Greece to the eurozone was "perhaps premature", and called for lessons to be learnt before more nations seek to join the euro.

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