German newspaper Handelsblatt’s article, titled “The Scapegoat of Greece” casts the spotlight on the prosecution of Andreas Georgiou, the former chief of Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) by the Greek justice system. The article states that Greek politicians are seeking to find a “scapegoat” for Greece’s debts, however, sending Georgiou to prison will have consequences for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
An account of the case is given by the newspaper that praises Georgiou for bringing back some credibility to Greece’s statistical authority despite having a number of enemies in Greek policies. It states that efforts had been made to start a trial against him had been foiled until Tsipras appointed Xenia Dimitriou as Supreme Court prosecutor.
The decision to bring Georgiou to justice came about at the start of August when the Supreme Court decided to begin proceedings for the alteration of statistics. Handelsblatt points out that the trial – in essence – undermines national interests.
Tsipras is criticized for his self-serving decision to bring Georgiou to trial to cast the focus away from his own pre-election pledge of a unilateral debt write-off. Instead of bringing promised growth, Tsipras is now forcing citizens to pay a bevy of taxes and accept pension reductions.
If it is proven that Georgiou, a former IMF employee, altered the 2009 deficit then Tsipras will be able to pass the buck by making Georgiou a scapegoat for the austerity program that has been put into effect.
The newspaper also implicates former Greek conservative New Democracy prime minister Kostas Karamanlis who served between 2004 and 2009. Karamanlis had increased spending from 44.6 percent to 53.9 percent of the GDP from 2005 to 2009, leading the country to the abyss of debt at a time when revenue dropped from 39 percent to 38 percent. During Karamanlis’ tenure debt piled up, increasing from 184 billion to 300 billion euros. The EU was misled by data presented by the Karamanlis government in September 2009, showing the deficit at 3.7 percent when – in actual fact – it was more than 10 percent. Karamanlis will feel vindicated if Georgiou is proven to have cooked the data upwards to serve the needs of Greece’s creditors. Nonetheless, the trial could have negative implications for Greece as there are already whispers that the next installment for Greece could be jeopardized.