Europe ESS overview

Activities and structure

The European Statistical System (ESS) is a partnership between Eurostat, the national statistical institutes and other national government agencies responsible for producing European statistics.

The European Statistical System ensures that the European statistics produced in all EU Member States are reliable, based on uniform criteria and definitions, and comparable between the different EU countries.

Currently the ESS as such is governed by the European Statistical Law adopted in 2009 by Regulation (EC) 223/2009 (the last revision was in 2015 to a larger extent to better reflect the importance of the ESS) of the European Parliament and of the Council.

European Union statistics are prepared, produced and disseminated both in the European Statistical System (ESS) and in the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).

The core element of the ESS is the European Statistical System Committee (ESSC). Committee members are Eurostat and the heads of the national statistical institutes of the EU and EFTA countries. The Committee provides professional guidance for planning, producing and disseminating European statistics and is involved in the process of developing and adopting standards for the further development of European statistical legislation.

The ESS activities are based on a European Statistical Programme which comprises the statistical planning for a five-year period. The Programme is adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. To ensure that user needs are taken into account when compiling the European Statistical Programme, the European Statistical Advisory Committee has been set up. It represents users, respondents, scientific and social institutions and the EU administration.

Although activities are planned jointly by the national statistical institutes and Eurostat, the production of harmonised national statistics is the responsibility of the Member States, while Eurostat collects the data provided by the Member States, analyses them and, based on them, provides comparable and harmonised figures. The harmonised comparative figures are indispensable for defining, implementing and evaluating common EU policy goals.

Furthermore, Eurostat undertakes to ensure the coordination required for the functioning of this complex system (different languages, very different forms of administrative organisation, specific classifications and so on) and to ensure the coherence and quality of the data.

Members of the ESS: European national statistical offices

Assuring quality: Code of practice for European statistics

European official statistics are based on principles laid down in the European Statistics Code of Practice (revised third version, November 2017).

It comprises 16 principles for the institutional framework of statistics production, the statistical processes and the statistical products. The purpose of the Code of Practice is to ensure that official statistics are produced free from political interference and in accordance with recognised scientific methods in all 27 EU Member States and at the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat).

The Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) concretises the principles of the Code of Practice and supports their implementation by allocating quality assurance activities, methods and tools to the individual Code of Practice indicators. These activities, methods and tools facilitate uniform application by creating a systematic relationship between the principles and indicators on the one hand and, on the other, the methods required for their implementation.

In order to ensure this commitment to quality, there is the European Statistical Governance Advisory Board (ESGAB) in the European Statistical System (ESS). The Board advises the Commission (Eurostat) on measures that contribute to the application of the Code of Practice. It also advises the Commission in terms of updating the Code of Practice and proposes measures aimed at enhancing its awareness among users and respondents. Consisting of high-level statistical experts, the Advisory Board submits annual reports to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

Implementation of European quality standards in Germany

Together, the statistical offices and other producers of European statistics (Other National Authorities (ONAs)) in Germany develop methods and tools for a common systematic approach to monitoring and improving the quality of the statistical processes and products. They are the common core of a quality management system covering the entire range of activities from the production of basic statistics to national accounts. More information on quality assurance in the system of statistical offices is available on the main site of the Federal Statistical Office.

ESS Innovation Agenda

In recent years, the ESS has been faced with increased demands from users for it to be more responsive and agile, especially in times of crises, and to expand the
range of its statistics and improve their timeliness and the level of their detail. The financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated like never before
the value of accurate and timely data, especially for democratic decision-making processes. They have also revealed that the ESS needs to improve its statistical production.

The main goals of the ESS innovation agenda are therefore to:

  • strengthen the ability of the ESS to respond rapidly to new and urgent user needs;
  • augment products and service portfolios for meeting policy needs (e.g. new metrics and statistical insights, more granularity, timelier statistics, better access to the portfolio of products);
  • realise efficiency gains to free up resources;
  • strengthen resilience to shocks and adapt to societal changes

Members of the European Statistical System (ESS)

Links to the European national statistical offices