European Statistical System (ESS)

What is the ESS?

The European Statistical System (ESS) is a partnership between Eurostat – the Statistical Office of the European Union – and the National Statistical Institutes (NSIs) of the EU and EFTA States ("EFTA at four"). While the NSIs collect data and compile statistics at national level, Eurostat’s primary role is to lead the way in harmonising statistics in close cooperation with its ESS partners. Eurostat also plays an important role in the publication of European statistics.

The ESS in its current form is based on Regulation (EC) 223/2009 (“the European Statistical Law”), which is incorporated into both the EEA Agreement and the bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the EU on cooperation in statistics. Through this arrangement, both the EEA EFTA States and Switzerland are strongly integrated in all aspects of European statistics.

As full participants in the ESS, the four EFTA States attend meetings of the European Statistical System Committee (ESSC) on an equal footing with the EU Member States, but without voting rights on comitology issues. They are, however, entitled to have their opinion on such issues added to the minutes of the ESSC meetings. Experts from the EFTA NSIs contribute to EU and EEA decision shaping through participation in more than 100 ESS working groups and task forces every year, organised by Eurostat.

European Statistics Code of Practice

The European Statistics Code of Practice (last revised in 2017) sets the standard for developing, producing and disseminating European statistics. It builds upon a common ESS definition of quality in statistics and sets out 16 key principles for the production and dissemination of European official statistics and the institutional environment in which national and European statistical authorities operate. A set of indicators of good practice for each of the 16 principles provides a reference for reviewing the implementation of the code.

ESO and Eurostat 

The EFTA Statistical Office (ESO) is a central bridging body between the EFTA NSIs and Eurostat. The core of ESO’s activities are monitoring new EU legislation in the field of statistics, assisting NSIs in evaluating the EEA relevance of new legal acts and incorporating them into the EEA Agreement. Furthermore, ESO works closely with Eurostat on the development of the EEA Annual Work Programme and monitors the inclusion of EFTA data in Eurostat publications. As part of its cooperation with Eurostat and the EFTA NSIs, ESO also co-organises courses for statisticians in the framework of the European Statistical Training Programme and supports statistical training and capacity building in third countries, primarily in Europe’s border regions to the east and south. ESO is located at the same premises as Eurostat in Luxembourg

European Statistical Training Programme

The European Statistical Training Programme (ESTP) offers statisticians from the EU, from EFTA States and from the EU candidate countries the opportunity to attend advanced courses on statistical methodology and other topics of relevance to official statistics. The EFTA NSIs organise between two and four ESTP courses each year, funded by EFTA. In return, statisticians from the four EFTA countries are eligible to participate in all ESTP courses (usually 50-60 courses per year).


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