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Eurostat's use of the fundamental principles of official statistics

14 July 2000

Eurostat's use of the fundamental principles of official statistics

This note concentrates on the use of the principles by Eurostat itself, but it will also refer to the use of the principles within the European Statistical System (ESS), the network of statistical agencies at Community, national and regional levels, of which Eurostat is the core. [The ESS is a system of the European Economic Area (EEA) and therefore includes the countries of the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.] To the best of our knowledge these principles are applied in the Member States.

Eurostat, in its co-operation with the countries in transition in Eastern and Central Europe and the Former Soviet Union, encourages the application of these principles in these countries and gives advice on how they can be incorporated in statistical legislation. In addition periodic seminars concerning the principles are organised (eg in Poland, 1993, and in Lithuania, 1996). Particular attention is being paid to the fundamental principles in the countries which are candidates for EU membership.

On 17 February 1997 the Council of the European Union adopted a Regulation (EC n° 322/97) - Annex 2 - on Community Statistics; this is also known as the "Community Statistical Law". The Fundamental Principles are enshrined in this Regulation and their adoption by the Statistical Commission is explicitly mentioned in the preamble. This Regulation was accompanied by Commission Decision (97/281/EC) - Annex 3 - of 21 April 1997 on the role of Eurostat as regards the production of Community Statistics which assigns to Eurostat the role of applying the principles of the Law.

Detailed comments on the principles themselves are as follows:

1. Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a demographic society, serving the Government, the economy and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation. To this end, official statistics that meet the test of practical utility are to be compiled and made available on an impartial basis by official statistical agencies to honour citizens' entitlement to public information.

Eurostat's mission statement is "to provide the European Union with a high quality statistical information service". The "European Union" is interpreted as meaning the institutions of the Community, the governments and the citizens.

To make its statistics transparent and accessible to all users on an equal basis, Eurostat has introduced a series of best practices that are described in Annex 1.

2. To retain trust in official statistics, the statistical agencies need to decide according to strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and professional ethics, on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data.

3. To facilitate a correct interpretation of data, the statistical agencies are to present information according to scientific standards on the sources, methods and procedures of the statistics.

The Commission Decision on the Community authority in charge of Statistics confirms to Eurostat the responsibility for the selection of scientific techniques, definitions and methodologies best suited to the production of Community statistics.

Eurostat has implemented a system of individualised training plans. For information on Eurostat training system please see Annex 5.

4. The statistical agencies are entitled to comment on erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics.
Eurostat is not aware of any obstacles in this area.

5. Data for statistical purposes may be drawn from all types of sources, be they statistical surveys or administrative records. Statistical agencies are to choose the source with regard to quality, timeliness, costs and the burden on respondents.

The Statistical Law states that national authorities and Eurostat should have access to administrative data to the extent that the data is necessary for the production of Community statistics in order to reduce the burden on respondents, while the details of implementation are to some extent subject to national practice.

6. Individual data collected by statistical agencies for statistical compilation, whether they refer to natural or legal persons, are to be strictly confidential and used exclusively for statistical purposes.

Eurostat does not collect any statistics directly from its own inquiries; this is the job of the statistical authorities in the Member States who are responsible for the application of confidentiality. Once confidential data is passed to Eurostat it becomes subject to Council Regulation 1588/90 (Annex 4) on the transmission of data subject to statistical confidentiality which states, in Article 5, that confidential statistical data transmitted to the Eurostat shall be accessible only to Eurostat personnel and may be used by them exclusively for statistical purposes.

It is furthermore stated that all the necessary regulatory, administrative, technical and organisations measures to ensure the confidentiality of statistical data transmitted to Eurostat have to be taken (Article 4). These measures are laid down in the Manual on the Protection of Confidential data in Eurostat which was drawn up in collaboration with the Committee of Statistical Confidentiality established by Council Regulation 1588/90 (Annex 4) and is composed of the representatives of Member States. According to the Community Statistical Law, the same standards apply to Community statistics implemented at the national level.

7. The laws, regulations and measures under which the statistical systems operate are to be made public.

All legislation of the European Communities is published in the Official Journal of the European Communities and on the EU web site:

Member States' statistical legislation is also published.

8. Co-ordination among statistical agencies within countries is essential to achieve consistency and efficiency in the statistical system.

Eurostat has very close links with the statistical operators in the Member States, be they the statistical institutes themselves or official statisticians working elsewhere.

There are around a dozen committees in statistics that meet regularly and some 80 working groups. In all around 200 meetings with official statisticians in the Member States are held each year.

9. The use by statistical agencies in each country of international concepts, classifications and methods promotes the consistency and efficiency of statistical systems at all official levels.

Eurostat agrees strongly that the use of accepted international standards and methods etc is essential to produce harmonised statistics. To this end the standards applicable in the EU (eg ESA-95, NACE Rev 1) are fully consistent with the global equivalents (eg SNA-93, ISIC Rev 3).

10. Bilateral and multilateral co-operation in statistics contributes to the improvement of systems of official statistics in all countries.

Eurostat is active in the field of technical co-operation in statistics, particularly in the Eastern and Central European Countries, the countries of the Former Soviet Union and countries in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific regions covered by the Lomé Convention. Recent initiatives have also commenced in the Mediterranean region, Mercosur and China.

Close co-ordination with other donor agencies, both national and international, is considered to be essential.

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