Greece may have to return billions of euros over illegal pension cuts

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece may have to return billion of euros to pensioners whose payments were cut during the financial crisis that battered the country in the past decade, a summary of a court ruling published on Tuesday showed.

The Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court, said some pension cuts imposed in 2015-2016 were not in accordance with the law, although the summary of the ruling did not give details.

Greece, which needed three international bailouts between 2010 and 2015, has cut state pensions several times in recent years to make the system viable.

Thousands of pensioners that have seen pension payments reduced by up to 50% have previously appealed to the courts.

The potential cost in paying for back pensions could total up to 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion), said Kostas Bourlos, a labour expert.

A government official told Reuters: “We must see all the details of the decision first and then we will decide our strategy.”

The Council of State did not specify in its summary of the ruling whether its decision concerned pensioners that petitioned the courts or all 2.5 million pensioners affected by the cuts.

Greece’s economy is expected to contract by 7.5% to 10.5% this year due to the impact of COVID-19. It lost a quarter of its economic output during its 10-year debt crisis.

Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Edmund Blair