RECOMMENDATION OF THE COMMISSION

on the independence, integrity and accountability of the national and Community statistical authorities (Text with EEA relevance)

THE COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 211 thereof,

Whereas:

(1) Official statistics play a central role in democratic societies as they provide public authorities, policy makers, economic and social actors as well as all citizens, with objective and impartial information, on the basis of which informed decisions may be taken and issues openly debated.

(2) In order to fulfil that role, official statistics must be produced and disseminated according to common standards guaranteeing compliance with the principles of impartiality, reliability, objectivity, scientific independence, cost-effectiveness and statistical confidentiality;

(3) At the same time the role of European statistics is becoming increasingly important in the context of a relaunched Lisbon strategy[1] and the Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs (2005-2008)[2]; high-quality statistics are also needed in order to monitor and review the implementation of other key policy initiatives at European level such as the sustainable development strategy, the common immigration and asylum policy, etc.

(4) In that context, the specific role of fiscal data and government accounts is even more essential for economic and monetary surveillance and the proper implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact; in particular, statistical data used in the framework of the excessive deficit procedure are to be of the highest quality possible.

(5) On 22 December 2004, the Commission adopted a Communication to the Council and the European Parliament entitled ‘Towards a European governance strategy for fiscal statistics’[3], proposing a consistent strategy for strengthening the European Union’s governance of fiscal statistics along three lines of action.

(6) First, and following the invitation made by the Council, monitoring by the Commission of the quality of reported fiscal data has to be reinforced; to that effect, a proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 3605/93 as regards the quality of statistical data in the context of the excessive deficit procedure[4] was adopted by the Commission on 2 March 2005 and is currently under discussion.

(7) Second, the operational capacities of the Commission in the statistical field have to be strengthened ; in the specific context of statistical monitoring under the excessive deficit procedure, regular dialogue visits and in-depth monitoring visits are required and all existing expertise has to be mobilised, including at national level.

(8) Third, there is a need to establish Europe-wide standards as regards the independence, integrity and accountability of the national statistical institutes in response to the invitation addressed to the Commission by the Council on 2 June 2004 to present by June 2005 a proposal to develop minimum European standards for the institutional set-up of statistical authorities, which reinforce the independence, integrity and accountability of the Member States’ national statistical institutes.

(9) In response to this invitation, on 17 November 2004 the Member States discussed in the Statistical Programme Committee the basic principles to be developed in a Code of Practice, and agreed to study the principles further and to establish indicators allowing the implementation of the Code to be monitored.

(10) A working group was subsequently entrusted by the Statistical Programme Committee with the task of finalising a proposal for a code of practice on European statistics.

(11) The resulting Code of Practice was unanimously endorsed by the Statistical Programme Committee on 24 February 2005, thus demonstrating that the principles it contains are shared by all the statistical institutes, which should then be invited to follow the Code as a guiding instrument.

(12) The existing institutional set-up of the statistical authorities varies significantly across Member States, owing to the different and sometimes diverging legal and administrative arrangements in the Member States, which reflect their respective political and cultural traditions.

(13) In the light of the achievements made by the statistical authorities through the adoption of the Code as a self-regulatory instrument and the expectation that they will implement it, it is considered that this Recommendation is appropriate and proportionate.

(14) This Code of Practice has the dual purpose of, on the one hand, improving trust and confidence in statistical authorities by proposing certain institutional and organisational arrangements and, on the other hand, reinforcing the quality of the statistics they produce and disseminate, by promoting the coherent application of best international statistical principles, methods and practices by all producers of official statistics in Europe.

(15) Member States should therefore be recommended to recognise the importance of the Code of Practice and take the measures required to ensure its correct implementation by the relevant authorities concerned, as well as to promote it among users and data providers.

(16) It has to be noted that the Commission intends to take similar measures in parallel within its own sphere of competence and in particular to monitor observance of the Code of Practice, within the European Statistical System,

I. HEREBY RECOMMENDS THAT MEMBER STATES:

A. recognise in the attached Code a common set of standards at European level for the statistical authorities;

B. ensure that the principles of the Code are respected by their statistical authorities with a view to producing and disseminating high- quality, harmonised Community statistics and to contributing in general to the proper functioning of the European statistical system as a whole;

C. ensure that their statistical services are professionally organised and resourced to produce Community statistics in a manner that guarantees independence, integrity and accountability, on the basis of the guidelines provided by the Code;

D. raise awareness of the existence of this Code and its contents among statistical respondents and data providers, as well as all users of statistics, using appropriate information and dissemination channels;

E. promote an extensive exchange of information and expertise within the European statistical system, based on the experience gained through the implementation of the Code;

F. support, and intensify where necessary, the wide-ranging co-operation between statistical authorities within the European Statistical System, as well as with statistical authorities of international bodies and organisations;

G. provide the information necessary to enable the Commission to monitor adherence to the principles laid down in the Code.

II. RECOGNISES IN THE ATTACHED CODE A COMMON SET OF STANDARDS AT EUROPEAN LEVEL FOR THE STATISTICAL AUTHORITIES AND IN THIS CONTEXT:

A. will ensure that the principles of the Code are respected by Eurostat with a view to producing and disseminating high-quality, harmonised Community statistics and to contributing in general to the proper functioning of the European statistical system as a whole;

B. will ensure that Eurostat, as the statistical authority of the European Union, is professionally organised and resourced to produce Community statistics in a manner that guarantees independence, integrity and accountability, and will take the appropriate measures accordingly, on the basis of its own internal organisation powers;

C. will take appropriate measures to facilitate the implementation of the Code in the European Statistical System, in particular towards developing official Community statistics so that information produced in observance of this Code can be recognised by the users.

III. FURTHERMORE INTENDS:

A. to develop tools for improving at European level the quality of Community statistics, taking into account their cost-effectiveness;

B. to set up a reporting system to monitor adherence to the Code within the European Statistical System in line with the proportionality principle;

C. to consider proposing an external advisory body, possibly a reformed European Advisory Committee on Statistical Information in the Economic and Social Spheres, with a view to conferring on that body an active role in monitoring the implementation of the Code and, consequently, the enhancement of independence, integrity and accountability, and in expressing opinions on the balancing of the priorities of the statistical programmes;

D. to present to the European Parliament and to the Council, within three years of the adoption of this Recommendation and after consultation of the Statistical Programme Committee and possibly of the external advisory body mentioned above, a report on progress in the implementation of this Code in the European Statistical System, based in particular on self-assessments and peer reviews and including, where necessary, proposals to enhance independence, integrity and accountability.

Done at Brussels,
For the Commission
The President

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[1] COM(2005) 24, 2.2.2005 : Working together for growth and jobs – A new start for the Lisbon strategy.

[2] COM(2005) 141, 12.4.2005: Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs (2005-2008) including a Commission Recommendation on the broad guidelines for the economic policies of the Member States and the Community and a Proposal for a Council Decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States.

[3] COM(2004) 832.

[4] OJ C , p. .