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Cutting Eurostat to Pieces

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The present writer took up his Eurostat post in March 1991, right after Desert Shield. He was told then that Eurostat "had no right" to publish economic analyses and those instructions were repeated from time to time ever since. No Eurostat publication that he has seen contained any fruits of the officially forbidden research.

And then, after two decades he receives this message from the pinnacle;

Dear colleagues,
European statistics, while providing key data for economic surveillance, are of equal importance for the development of all other Union policies. Given the statistical principles enshrined in R 223/2009 and this cross-cutting service of statistics, the Commission intends to separate the responsibility for the collection and verification of the statistical data informing economic analysis from the service conducting the economic analysis.
As announced this morning in the European Parliament by President Barroso, the responsibility for Eurostat will therefore fall under the authority of Commissioner Šemeta. This decision confirms the importance of Eurostat as an independent provider of statistics to inform EU policy making. Therefore I see this change as a confirmation of our mission within the Commission.
This change is expected to be approved during the next Commission meeting early November. I will keep you informed accordingly.
Best regards,
Walter J. Radermacher
Director General, Eurostat"

A function which has been tiny or non-existent is to be "separated" from Eurostat; why even mention it?

This writer has no access to classified information, but he is sure that there is more to the story than the official sources have chosen to reveal. In our services power struggles behind the scenes sometimes precede key decisions. Two past events have reduced Eurostat to the DG with the least back room clout in EUland.

First there was the Eurostat scandal that broke on its fiftieth birthday. Not good. In the aftermath the Commission announced that it would check the other DGs for corruption. Some working days later it happily reported that they were squeaky clean, pure as fresh snow. The probability that this was the absolute truth is in the per milles, rather than the percents. Look at the gargantuan budgets of certain subsidy dispersing DGs. Given the nature of the staff reporting system (CDR) which allows Director Generals and Directors to stop careers without taking any risks, most colleagues deliberately ignore or even conceal suspicious information that they find. Considering how easily most whistleblowers have been eliminated this majority attitude is hardly reprehensible. For the present purpose it is enough to conclude that Eurostat is anything but a political powerhouse. It is the weak who get cut.

Then there was the question of Greek entry into the EURO. While Greek data was being checked in Luxembourg this writer asked one or two dozen of his colleagues whether they thought that Greece was as ready for monetary union with Germany in reality as in the data submitted. The replies ran from smiles to chuckles and the odd belly laugh. He found no one who took the data seriously, and that included him. The explanation on offer was that "the politicians want this" and that all of Eurostat would be made to suffer if it presumed to oppose itself to the high and mighty with only honesty as a defence. The writer had his misgivings but could not summon the courage of a van Buitenen, an Andreasen or of some of the whistleblowers in his circle of acquaintences. He comforted himself with the thought that Greek GDP is 1% of the EU's, so very little harm would be done. That was less than brilliant of him. If the Greek people still had their own currency they could reduce national agony to half by deliberately inflating it. True; this is a disreputable policy, but it spreads the pain more evenly that the "austerity for 98% - prosperity for 2%" that we witness. Greek readers are invited to take this as the personal apology. Please take into account that there were several million people in the EU who knew well that Greece there was no basis in facts for tightly linking the German and the Greek economies but failed to protest while there was still time. Really sorry.

A decade later even leading politicians speak the truth. But it is unlikely that they will come to Eurostat's defence by exposing those who bullied EU statisticians into accepting data that had been scientifically proven to be false. No, civil servants make good scapegoats.

It would be great if these considerations prove to be groundless. Because, if they are founded, Eurostat stands to loose much of its staff and budget. All of our resources can be declared to be "analytical" and therefore transferred to other DGs. Since our careers are at the arbitrary discretion of top management there will be as few protests as when Greece was railroaded into the Euro. Poetic justice strikes again! Or maybe karma, if you are Buddhist.

By SID, an independent Trade Union of employees of all EU institutions and EU agencies.

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