The ESS is the partnership comprising Eurostat, National Statistical Institutes (NSIs) and other national statistical bodies responsible in each Member State (MS) for producing and disseminating European statistics.
The ESS does not operate within a political vacuum. For many EU MSs the relationship between the Commission and national government is very important.
Likewise Eurostat is not a free agent - it is part of the European Commission - but needs to work closely with NSIs in order to achieve its objectives. The complexity of Eurostat's role is often under-appreciated.
The legal basis under which the ESS operates was established by the 2008 Regulation on European Statistics.
At present there are various decision-making and advisory fora operating in the ESS:
European Statistical System Committee (ESSC) – Chaired by the Director General of Eurostat, ESSC is the main decision making body of the ESS. ESSC is made up of Heads of the NSIs of each MS as well as the EFTA countries, the ECB and OECD. Its purpose is to make formal decisions on statistical matters as well as to discuss strategy and express opinion.
Partnership Group – Composed of a subset of Directors General of NSIs (with rotating membership) and senior management of Eurostat, the Partnership Group considers fundamental challenges in both statistical and organisational domains and sets the agenda for ESSC.
Sector Groups – These groups (Business Statistics Directors Group, Directors of Social Statistics, National Accounts Directors and Methodology Directors) consider issues relating to particular areas of statistics before formal consideration by ESSC.
Working Groups/Task Forces – Comprised of topic area experts from MSs, these groups help Eurostat to exercise its functions and provide opportunities for MSs experts to influence and inform.
In 2008 two new external facing committees were introduced:
The European Statistical Advisory Committee (ESAC) - The ESAC represents users, respondents and other stakeholders of European Statistics and plays an important role in ensuring that user requirements as well as the response burden on information providers and producers are taken into account in developing the Statistical Programmes. It replaces the European Advisory Committee on Statistical Information in the Economic and Social Spheres (CEIES)
The European Statistical Governance Advisory Board (ESGAB) - Set up to enhance the credibility of European statistics, ESGAB is an independent body which advises Eurostat on the coordination of the implementation of the Code of Practice in the ESS as a whole, and reports on the implementation of the Code by Eurostat itself.
European Statistics Code of Practice
The Code of Practice for European Statistics was developed and agreed at SPC (the forerunner to ESSC) in February 2005.
It is based on 15 principles. Governance authorities and statistical authorities in the EU committed themselves to adhering to the principles fixed in the Code covering the institutional environment, statistical processes and outputs.
A set of indicators of good practice for each of the 15 principles provides a reference for reviewing the implementation of the Code.
Code of Practice Peer Review
Compliance with the Code is monitored by self-assessment by each MS, supplemented by a system of Peer Reviews.
These Peer Reviews are conducted for each MS, in-country, by an ESS team (comprising two expert representatives from NSIs and one from Eurostat) to seek evidence of compliance with the Code and to make recommendations for improvements as well as identifying best practices.
Eurostat is also peer reviewed, by an independent team.
The Peer Review for the UK took place at ONS London on 24-26 September 2007. The Peer Review ESS team was led by Jean-Etienne Chapron (Director at INSEE, the French National Statistical Institute), supported by Pieter Everaers (Eurostat Director) and Tuulikki Sillajoe (Deputy Director of Statistics Estonia).
The link above shows the full report of the Peer Review of ONS's compliance with the ES Code of Practice, and of ONS's role in coordinating the UK statistical system.
Although it is generally considered to be inappropriate to compare directly the assessments of the Code's indicators between different countries, there is some analytical value in comparing individual countries with the averages for the ESS as a whole.
The following diagram illustrates, for example, that ONS's compliance against six of the seven indicators assessed in the Peer Review is at about the ESS average, and that compliance against Principle 4 'Quality Commitment' is substantially higher.