The statistical cooperation between the EFTA Countries and the European Union operates within the framework of the EEA and the Swiss/EU Agreements. The European Statistical System (ESS) comprises the statistical institutes, ministries, agencies and central banks that produce official statistics in EEA Member States and Switzerland as well as Eurostat - the statistical office of the European Union.
European integration has highlighted the necessity for all EFTA States to cooperate with their main partners in order to ensure the production and dissemination of coherent an comparable statistical information for describing and monitoring relevant economic, social and environmental policies. Indeed, statistics are essential for planning, implementing and monitoring companies' and governments' policies, which is indispensable for a better understanding of the society around us and necessary for making comparisons between different countries and regions.
The cooperation in the field of statistics for EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) with the European Union is regulated in the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement), whereas the Swiss/EU Agreement on cooperation in the field of statistics is the legal basis for Switzerland. These agreements foresee that the contracting parties shall improve their cooperation through common programmes and procedures. The purpose of this cooperation is to achieve gradual harmonisation, as well as to ensure the coherent evolution of their legal framework for the production, transmission and dissemination of official statistics. In this respect, the agreements enable EFTA experts to participate fully in the work of EU committees and other EU technical bodies responsible for developing statistical programmes and action. These agreements also provide for the secondment of national experts to Eurostat.
Moreover, EFTA/EU statistical cooperation through the EEA Agreement and the Swiss/EU Agreement has progressively strengthened collaboration between parties in the field of technical assistance for third countries and training for statisticians.