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European Commission - Press release
Commission strengthens independence and reliability of EU statistics
Brussels, 17 April 2012 - Stronger measures to ensure the quality and credibility of EU statistics have been set out in a proposal adopted by the Commission today. High-quality, reliable statistics are fundamental for evidence-based decision making. Demands for such data have further increased in light of the enhanced economic-policy coordination that has been agreed in the EU over the past year. Moreover, recent economic events have shown the importance of credible statistics to ensure the trust of the public and the financial markets in such decisions. In line with what was foreseen in the "Six Pack" (see MEMO/11/627), the Commission has therefore proposed a revision of the EU Regulation on Statistics to further strengthen in law the independence, reliability and quality management of statistics coming from Member States and compiled at EU level.
The proposal focuses on two main areas: (i) the independence of National Statistical Institutes and in particular the heads of these authorities; (ii) Member States will be required to sign "Commitments of Confidence", confirming at the highest political level the obligation to fully respect the European Statistics Code of Practice.
Algirdas Šemeta, EU Commissioner responsible for statistics, said: "Now, more than ever, we must be able to reassure citizens that policies put forward – particularly economic ones – are founded on quality, reliable data. Today's proposal safeguards in law the independence of European statistics, and will ensure that they adhere to the highest standards. "
Content of the proposal
The first focus of the proposal is on the independence of National Statistical Institutes (NSIs), and in particular the heads of these authorities. The heads of the NSIs must be appointed purely on professional criteria (i.e. without any political motivation), in full transparency, and should be entirely autonomous in their work. They must be independent in deciding how statistics are developed, produced and disseminated, as well as in managing the statistics office. In this context, the independence of Eurostat, as the central coordinator and monitor of the entire European Statistical System, is also reiterated within the proposed revised legal framework. In addition, the Commission will within the coming weeks adopt a decision on Eurostat confirming its professional independence by clarifying its institutional setting, its role and responsibilities within the Commission. The accountability of the heads of NSIs is also underlined, and an annual report on the statistical activities and financial situation of the institute must be presented to the relevant national authority.
A second important aspect of today's proposal is that Member States will be required to sign "Commitments of Confidence". In doing so, they will pledge at the highest political level to fully respect the European Statistics Code of Practice, to safeguard the independence of NSIs and to establish national quality assurance frameworks for statistics. These Commitments must be signed by national governments and will be counter-signed by the Commission. Adherence to these Commitments will be monitored by the Commission (Eurostat)
Finally, the proposal sets out a series of provisions extending and securing access to administrative data for the production of European statistics.
The European Statistics Code of Practice was first agreed in 2005 and subsequently revised in 2011. The Code sets out 15 principles, combined with indicators of good practice, relating to the institutional environment, the statistical production processes and the output of statistics. Professional independence, commitment to quality, sound methodology and relevance of statistics are among these principles.
The basic legal framework governing statistics was modernised in 2009, to improve the efficiency of the European Statistical System, thereby allowing it to respond to the challenges it was, and is, facing. Clear structures for cooperation and coordination, as well as priority setting and simplification mechanisms were introduced to that effect.
In 2011, in response to economic developments which demonstrated the need to further strengthen the credibility of statistics, the Commission put forward its Communication "Towards robust quality management for European Statistics" (COM (2011) 211). That Communication set out the ways to strengthen the governance of the European Statistical System (ESS), including the idea of "Commitments of Confidence" and legal measures to safeguard NSIs' independence.
The professional independence of NSIs was also explicitly recognised in the "Six Pack" legislation on enhanced economic governance.
Today's proposal to revise the legal framework for European statistics follows on from and responds to these developments.
The proposal will now be transmitted to the European legislator for discussion and adoption.