Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

MEPs accuse commission of blocking EU statistics 'whistleblower'

  • National statistical offices must be independent, says the commission, while denying Eurostat the same freedom (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Talks aimed at increasing transparency on EU statistical output have collapsed after the European Commission refused to apply the rules it demands of national statistical offices to its own statistical agency.

Lawmakers have been working on a overhaul of the EU's statistical regulation which governs the role of national offices and the EU's own statistical agency, Eurostat, since 2012.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • MEPs say that the European Commission has thwarted plans to make the EU's statistics office more transparent (Photo: European Commission)

EU lawmakers have sought to tighten the regulations governing the work of statistical offices in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the fraud scandal in Greece, where data on the size of the country’s budget deficit was deliberately falsified.

Having forecast a budget deficit of 3.7 percent for 2009, the Greek government was eventually forced to reveal a deficit of 15.4 percent. It was also condemned by the commission for fabricating and manipulating economic statistics.

The scandal plunged the country into crisis and, subsequently, into two EU-funded bailout packages worth a €240 billion in total.

Governments are now required by EU law to ensure that national statistical offices are statutorily independent and free from political influence.

Meanwhile, countries which miss statistical targets on their debt and deficit levels can also be fined under the eurozone's revised economic governance rules.

The legislation tabled by the EU executive in 2012 only applied to national statistics agencies, but MEPs agreed to extend its scope to apply the rules to Eurostat.

An agreement reached following a series of trialogue meetings between MEPs and ministers last summer would have inserted a ‘whistleblower clause’ giving the head of Eurostat the right to challenge the commission if it threatened the independence of the agency.

MEPs also wanted the parliament to be consulted on the nomination of the Eurostat boss and to appear before the assembly's economic affairs committee.

The clause backed by MEPs states that "the director-general shall act in an independent manner and shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government or any institution, body, office, or agency. If the Director-General considers that a measure taken by the Commission calls his or her independence into question, he or she shall immediately inform the European Parliament".

But the commission has argued that Eurostat, which is legally considered part of the commission, should be treated in the same way as other departments of the EU executive.

With MEPs refusing to back down on the point, negotiations on the dossier have now been abandoned.

"Eurostat is part of the commission, and the commission acts politically on the basis of what Eurostat produces," Liem Hoang Ngoc, the MEP tasked with leading parliament's negotiating team on the file, told EUobserver.

"Ensuring that those who use statistics for political purposes are not the same people than those who make them is the very point of this regulation. The commission lauds this principle when it comes to the national level, yet it shamelessly think that the EU can opt out."

Hoang Ngoc, a French centre-left MEP, also accused the commission of political interference during negotiations, commenting that it had "used the full extent of its powers, including threatening to withdraw the legislation and requesting a unanimity vote at the council, to prevent the council from signing off on the agreement."

However, commission spokeswoman Emer Traynor said that the EU executive had "never threatened to withdraw this proposal".

"We really regret that progress on this proposal – which is essential for more independent, reliable and coordinated statistics – has been held up by inter-institutional questions that do not belong in this discussion," she said.

The EU treaties allow the commission to unilaterally re-write or withdraw a proposal. Unlike governments, the EU executive can also insist that a bill be adopted by unanimity among ministers rather than the normal majority.

EU report slams Greece over false statistics

A report published by the European Commission on Tuesday has condemned Greece for falsifying its data on public finances, citing "deliberate misreporting of figures by the Greek authorities in 2009."

Valencia faces EU probe over dodgy statistics

The EU commission has launched a probe into whether the Spanish region of Valencia is guilty of the first case of statistical fraud since the Greek crisis in 2009.

Amsterdam wins EU medicines agency on coin toss

The staff of the London-based EMA will move to the Dutch city of Amsterdam after Brexit, following a coin toss. Chance also decided the new home of the European Banking Authority: Paris.

Magazine

Decision day for EU agencies relocation race

EU ministers will decide on the future location of two London-based EU agencies on Monday. In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies.

News in Brief

  1. European Banking Authority will move to Paris
  2. EU court threatens daily fine over Polish forest logging
  3. EU medicines agency will move to Milan or Amsterdam
  4. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan in next round of EMA vote
  5. Three countries pull out of medicines agency Brexit race
  6. Schulz calls for new German elections
  7. EU Commission 'confident' on German stability
  8. EU adopts new border check rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  2. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  3. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  4. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  5. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  7. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  8. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  9. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  12. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017