European Union’s budget watchdog fines ‘cheating’ Austria

The European Union’s budget watchdog is seeking a 29.8 million-euro fine for Austria after accusing one of its regions of providing false debt data over two years.

The European Commission said Wednesday that “serious negligence of government entities of Land Salzburg led to the misrepresentation in the statistical notifications of 2012 and 2013 of Austria’s deficit and debt data.”

The Commission is recommending that EU member states endorse the fine for “statistical misrepresentation.”

The quality of statistical data has been a problem for the EU in the past. The Commission accused Greece in 2010 of falsifying data about its public finances. The country’s debt-stricken economy is being kept afloat by billions of euros in international loans and its future in the euro currency bloc is in doubt.

The commissioner responsible for the EU’s statistical agency, Marianne Thyssen, said the “misrepresentation” was corrected in April 2014, and that the Commission has never called into question the accuracy of Austria’s overall data.

But she told reporters that the Commission will continue to take action to ensure correct reporting, saying that “reliable statistics are necessary for evidence-based policy making.”