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Greece's off-estimate deficit startles EU

LUXEMBOURG, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- European finance ministers said they were stunned by an estimate placing Greece's deficit at more than 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Estimates by Eurostat, the official data office of the European Union, put the deficit near 3.7 percent of Greece's GDP, the EUobserver reported Tuesday.

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In a meeting in Luxembourg, Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou reported the figure would actually be between 10 percent and 12 percent.

Displaying a dry wit, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said he was "very impressed by the difference between the old and the new figures."

He later said, "it happens occasionally, but if it happens again we risk putting all Eurostat data at risk of credibility."

The European Commission's economic commissioner Joaquin Almunia said, "serious discrepancies will require an open and deep investigation."

While ministers berated Greece for the revelation, 20 of 27 European Union states have deficits higher than permitted by the group's Stability and Growth Pact agreement, which prescribes a deficit of no more than 3 percent of GDP during normal economic times.

The deficit in France is predicted to reach 8.5 percent of GDP in 2010. Germany's deficit is expected to hit 6 percent of GDP next year.

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