Importance of statistics for the functioning of the EEA Agreement
Statistical cooperation in the context of the EEA-Agreement refers to "EFTA at three" (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The purpose of the cooperation is to provide comparable and reliable statistical information in order to describe and monitor all relevant policies and programmes covered by the EEA Agreement. EEA cooperation in the field of statistics should therefore be seen in relation to the overall objective of the agreement, that is, “to promote a continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relations between the Contracting Parties with equal conditions of competition, and the respect of the same rules, with a view to creating a homogeneous European Economic Area.” (Article 1 of the EEA Agreement).
Statistics is defined in the EEA Agreement as one of several “horizontal and flanking” policy areas. Article 76 states that “The Contracting Parties shall ensure the production and dissemination of coherent and comparable statistical information for describing and monitoring all relevant economic, social and environmental aspects of the EEA.” Protocol 30 deals with the organisation of the cooperation, whereas Annex XXI contains the “specific provisions in statistics”, that is the legal acts adopted by the EEA Joint Committee and in force.
Protocol 30 contains a number of provisions for the organisation of cooperation in the field of statistics. Importantly, it provides for the participation of the EEA EFTA States in committees and other bodies that assist the Commission in the management or development of EEA-relevant programmes and actions, establishes the mutual obligations of the EEA EFTA States and Eurostat to respectively provide data and to disseminate statistics on the EEA EFTA States, and defines the financial contributions of the EEA EFTA States to the European Statistical Programme (ESP).
Protocol 30 also establishes the procedure for developing the EEA Annual Statistical Programme, which shall be developed jointly by the EFTA Statistical Office, in cooperation with the EEA EFTA National Statistical Institutes (NSI), and Eurostat. The EEA Annual Statistical Programme is based on a subset of Eurostat’s work programme and defines the activities and expected outputs of the cooperation.
Seconded National Experts
As part of their financial commitment as defined in Protocol 30, the EEA EFTA States provide four Seconded National Experts (SNEs) to Eurostat as an in-kind contribution to the ESP. These experts are recruited from the NSIs and employed as fully integrated Eurostat staff for a period of two to four years, exceptionally extendable to six years. The SNEs remain employees of their NSI while working for Eurostat.
EFTA Working Group of the Heads of National Statistical Institutes
The Working Group of the Heads of National Statistical Institutes is an EFTA working group under Subcommittee IV on flanking and horizontal policies. The working group primarily assists Subcommittee IV on issues relating to the incorporation of EU legislation into the EEA Agreement, but also deals with cooperation outside the framework of the EEA Agreement, like statistical assistance and training. The working group consists of the Directors General of the EFTA NSIs. On issues relating exclusively to the EEA, Switzerland has the status of observer.
Eurostat: A source of data on the EFTA States
Protocol 30 establishes that the EEA EFTA States shall provide data to Eurostat in accordance with their legal obligations, and that Eurostat is obliged to publish statistics on these countries through the normal dissemination channels of Eurostat. Similar provisions are contained in the Agreement on cooperation in statistics between the EU and Switzerland. This means that Eurostat is an important source of comparable statistics on all four EFTA States, the EU Member States and – to a varying extent – other European and non-European countries. Please refer to the section “Statistical sources” for more information.