Statistical cooperation - European Neighbourhood Policy-East (ENP-E)
Article last updated: December 2019.
This article forms part of a set of background articles which introduce the statistical cooperation activities of the European Union (EU) with non-member countries and focuses on cooperation with eastern European and southern Caucasus countries in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This is a strategic partnership between the EU and a number of its closest neighbours built ‘upon a mutual commitment to common values — democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development’.
Countries concerned and the partnership
The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) — established in 2004 — reflects the European Union´s (EU) wish to build on common interests with partner countries and commitment to work jointly in key priority areas. The ENP-East grouping brings together the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in the Eastern Partnership, established on a mandate from the European Council of Ministers. Action plans setting out an agenda for political and economic reforms with short and medium-term priorities were developed with all of the countries except Belarus. They reflect the state of each country’s progress in terms of its relations with the EU. All action plans included a specific chapter on statistics, but also make reference to statistics as part of other thematic components.
In May 2015, the EU and its ENP-East partners reviewed their process of cooperation and provided direction for future developments of the Eastern Partnership through a summit declaration, following a meeting in Riga, Latvia. In November 2015, a profound review of the ENP policy took place. Of the six ENP-East countries, three — Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine — have signed Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with the EU. In November 2017, the EU and Armenia signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. In February 2017, the EU and Azerbaijan began negotiations on a new framework agreement. The EU has not yet ratified the bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement concluded with Belarus in 1995.
Cooperation activities in statistics
In 2014, a new strategy for statistical cooperation in the ENP-East region was prepared by the ENP-East countries in cooperation with Eurostat. Its main objectives for 2014-2020 are to:
- empower users including policymakers and civil society;
- improve the availability of good quality statistics in line with the EU acquis in statistics;
- strengthen institutional capacity by implementing the European statistics Code of Practice;
- support the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Instrument — Regional East strategy (2014-2020) with statistical data.
The strategy envisages that a number of objectives will be achieved, inter alia, using the following means:
- data collection;
- joint pilot surveys;
- joint statistical publications for the region;
- specific technical assistance, project-oriented towards the implementation of EU standards in statistics in the context of Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area negotiations;
- projects targeting, for example, quality, dissemination, statistical areas, management, registers and classifications to produce data;
- training courses;
- workshops and seminars.
Statistics through Eastern Partnership — STEP
The launch of the first regional programme — Statistics through Eastern Partnership (STEP) — in 2019 further enhances statistical cooperation with the ENP-East countries. STEP seeks to strengthen the partner countries’ statistical capacity to develop, produce and disseminate high-quality statistics. It also seek to reinforce the independence and institutional capacity of the countries’ national statistical systems. STEP is to run for 34 months with a EUR 4.7 million budget.
Eurostat also supports the European Commission’s technical assistance programmes in the ENP-East countries by:
- providing statistical assistance to national statistical authorities;
- encouraging best practice and the transfer of know-how through mutual contacts, training, study visits, workshops and seminars;
- participating in the collection, validation and dissemination of a wide range of data;
- and assisting countries in the process of harmonisation towards European statistical system (ESS) and/or international standards.
To this end, Eurostat, in cooperation with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), conduct global assessments of the national statistical systems of the six ENP-East countries. These assessments provide a clear picture of the state of development of official statistics in a given country, covering:
- the administrative and technical capacity of the statistical system;
- the statistical law and other legal acts;
- the application of European and international standards and principles (such as the United Nations’ Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and the European statistics Code of Practice);
- the existing mechanisms used by the national statistical authority to coordinate the statistical system;
- a review of medium and long-term planning.
The assessments also propose a list of actions to be undertaken in order to improve and strengthen the statistical system and evaluate statistical production in relation to the EU acquis, in other words the legal basis, methodologies and data requirements of the statistical requirements compendium (SRC). Global assessment reports were published for Armenia in 2009, Azerbaijan in 2010 and 2017, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova in 2013 and 2019, and Ukraine in 2012 and 2017.
Another form of assessment proposed to the countries is a light peer review, which concentrates on the compliance of each national statistical system in relation to the European statistics Code of Practice. In the ENP-East region, Armenia is the only country to have had a light peer review (2014 and 2019). More recently, Eurostat has launched a series of sectoral reviews, covering specific statistical domains, for example, labour force statistics, national accounts or business statistics. The reports produced from these sectoral reviews are also available on Eurostat’s website.
Once a year Eurostat organises a high level seminar for the heads of the national statistical authorities of the ENP-East countries at which strategic managerial issues, including quality in statistics are discussed.
Eurostat has also organised statistics expert meetings that focus on legal and technical issues in selected statistical domains, followed by specific workshops to discuss the practical implementation of European and international standards.
Participants from the national statistical authorities of all ENP-East countries also participate in training courses that are modelled on the courses provided within the European statistical training programme.
Other forms of cooperation
Twinning and TAIEX (technical assistance and information exchange instrument) are two additional instruments offered by the European Commission through which statistical assistance may be provided to the ENP-East countries. The twinning tool has been available to ENP-East countries since 2005 and takes a medium-term perspective (up to six months under the ‘light’ option) or long-term perspective (from a minimum of 12 months up to a maximum of 36 months), providing direct assistance from EU Member States on specific topics. TAIEX responds to demand-based short-term assistance requirements.
An example of a beneficiary of twinning assistance is the National Statistical Service of Armenia, which undertook a twinning with Statistics Denmark, ISTAT (Italy), Statistics Finland and Statistics Lithuania between August 2015 and August 2017 on topics as diverse as their dissemination system, demographic statistics, labour market statistics, poverty statistics, innovation statistics and water accounts. In Ukraine, a twinning project ran between November 2013 and December 2015 with Statistics Denmark in partnership with INSEE (France), Statistics Lithuania, the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, the Central Statistical Office of Poland, Statistics Finland, Statistics Sweden, the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, INE (Spain) and ISTAT. The twinning project covered three particular areas: the collection, production and dissemination of statistical products; communication strategies; and staff training.
On demand, TAIEX assistance concerns seminars, workshops, study visits or expert missions. For example, the State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan has hosted an expert mission from ISTAT in February 2015 on labour statistics and has carried out a study visit to DESTATIS (Germany) on quality management in November 2015. The State Statistics Service of Ukraine has benefitted from two expert missions: the first was a visit from the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency concerning methodologies for the evaluation of governmental budgeting for science activities (in August 2015), and the second was a visit from Statistics Estonia and Statistics Lithuania concerning demographic statistics (in October 2015).
Data collection procedures
ENP-East countries and Eurostat are not legally obliged to exchange statistical data. Such data exchanges are, however, a tangible outcome of statistical cooperation with the ENP-East countries. Indeed, building up the statistical capacity and increasing the volume and quality of data collected within an agreed timetable is a key objective of cooperation with the ENP-East countries.
Data for a set of statistical indicators are collected each year by Eurostat through questionnaires sent to the ENP-East countries. The data are collected for several social, economic and environmental themes, such as population, health, living conditions, education, the labour market, the economy, international trade in goods, agriculture, business statistics and tourism, communications and the information society, research and development, transport, energy and the environment. The questionnaires underwent a major revision and expansion in 2017, including among other changes, updating the selection of indicators and their definitions to reflect the latest standards for national accounts and balance of payments.
Eurostat also publishes a selection of leaflets for particular topics based on the data collected from ENP-East countries, as well as a series of articles on Statistics Explained. In 2018, the first edition of a statistical book on ENP-East countries was published.
With the aim of being as transparent as possible and in order to reach as wide an audience as possible, all of this information is available free of charge on the ENP dedicated section of Eurostat’s website.
- International statistical cooperation — online publication