Greece may decide that more measures to cut the deficit are needed after discussing its fiscal situation with visiting European Union inspectors, the finance minister said on Tuesday.
The EU inspectors arrived in Athens on Monday to check on the progress of fiscal consolidation measures ahead of a March 16 deadline. They are due to go home at the end of the week.
Any decision (on new measures) will be announced after talks with European Commission representatives are completed, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told reporters after a cabinet meeting. Greece will do whatever is needed to meet its targets under the Stability and Growth program.
Revelations that Greece's deficit was three times bigger than originally forecast plunged the country into a debt crisis, with investors demanding a high premium to buy its bonds.
Greece now has to convince Brussels that austerity steps such as a civil sector pay freeze and a cut in state workers' allowances are enough to slash its budget deficit by 4 percentage points this year to 8.7 percent of GDP.
This time, the officials from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF are not just getting an update on our figures. They have their own estimates and they are doing cross-checks, a senior finance ministry official said.
The EU has threatened to take Greece to the European Court of Justice -- the EU's highest court -- over dodgy statistics.
But Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has countered that Brussels was too lenient with his conservative predecessor.
European Commission officials may be called to testify to a parliamentary committee set up to investigate questionable data.
If the investigating committee deems it necessary to call European Commission executives to testify, it will do so, said Christos Papoutsis, head of parliament's socialist party team.
GREEK, EU TENSIONS
The socialists are setting up this committee and others to investigate past scandals and appease a public demanding punishment of those responsible for the fiscal crisis in order to accept tough austerity measures.
Although the committee has no power to forcibly summon anyone, the situation highlights increasing tensions between Greece and its EU peers, who have given political support to its fiscal plan but fallen short of spelling out a bailout mechanism, reluctant to pledge aid as they grapple with their own financial crises at home.
German taxpayers have said in polls they are not willing to pay to bail out Greece, and Greeks are starting to show outrage in their turn.
House speaker Filippos Petsalnikos summoned Germany's ambassador to Athens on Tuesday to complain about German press reports, including the cover of Focus magazine, which shows an ancient Greek statue making a gesture of disrespect under the headline Cheats in the euro family.
It is dangerous to create misconceptions that Greeks are nothing but thieves, crooks and lazyheads living off German taxpayers' money. This is simply not true, he told state NET radio. Each people have their dignity and symbols.
About 30 members of a leftist group blockaded the offices of the European Commission in Athens on Tuesday, hanging a banner from its balcony reading European workers unite in solidarity and subversion.
Opinion polls show most Greeks back the government's austerity measures provided the pain is fairly shared. Protests so far have been largely symbolic, lacking widespread public support.
On Wednesday however public and private sector unions representing half of Greece's five million workforce will walk off the job for 24 hours to protest against the measures.
The country's main public sector union said the strikes won't stop there.
We will continue with powerful workers' interventions in March, head of the public sector ADEDY union Spyros Papaspyros told Reuters, adding they were also planning protests for April and May.
ADEDY's private sector sister union GSEE said it would decide its own course of action after the EU decision in March.
Early on Tuesday about 150 trade union protesters blocked the Athens stock exchange building to protest tax hikes and wage cuts but the bourse operated normally.
(Additional reporting by Harry Papachristou; Writing by Dina Kyriakidou; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)