Statistical cooperation - European Neighbourhood Policy-South (ENP-S)

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Article last updated: December 2018

This article forms part of a set of background articles which introduces the statistical cooperation activities of the European Union (EU) with non-member countries and focuses on cooperation with Mediterranean 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’.

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Countries concerned and the partnership

The ENP-South grouping brings together a number of countries from northern Africa and the Middle East: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine [1], Syria [2] and Tunisia.

The relations with ENP-South countries were modified by the European Neighbourhood Policy review that took place in 2015. The review was adopted on 18 November 2015 through a joint communication (JOIN(2015) 50 final) of the European Commission (EC) and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The revision of the ENP focused on six main topics:

  • stabilising the neighbourhood;
  • moving from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the principle of ‘differentiation’, to reflect the ambitions and commitment of each partner country and increase ownership and partnership;
  • promoting good governance, democracy, rule of law and human rights;
  • joint priorities for cooperation, including: economic modernisation and entrepreneurship, employment with a focus on youths, partnership for growth, reform of the security sector, migration and mobility;
  • the ‘regional dimension’ in view of the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean and outreach beyond the ENP countries;
  • more effective delivery of support and assistance.

In terms of the formal reporting structures of the ENP, the consultation process suggested that the existing action plans and progress reports should be revised to reflect current priorities, in line with the new generation of association agendas. Future reports will be shorter, simpler and more focused and flexible; reporting will take place at political meetings under the relevant political agreements.

Cooperation activities in statistics

Eurostat supports the European Commission’s technical assistance programmes in the ENP-South 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;
  • assisting countries in the process of harmonisation towards European statistical system (ESS) and/or international standards.

Encouraging best practice and transfer of know-how

As well as the country-tailored cooperation activities that the ENP review entails, a multi-country and multiannual programme for statistics addressing common issues and requirements, known as the MEDSTAT programme, is also a key operational tool for cooperation. The MEDSTAT IV programme was launched at the beginning of 2016 for a duration of 40 months.

The MEDSTAT IV programme is a continuation of previous MEDSTAT programmes starting in 1996. The overall objective of the MEDSTAT IV project is to promote evidence-based policymaking and to foster democratic development by improving the availability, visibility and accessibility of robust, reliable and timely statistical data in the ENP-South countries.

MEDSTAT IV engages a number of experts to assist in the implementation of work programmes that are designed to promote the harmonisation of statistics in line with European and international standards, to help implement the Statistical Code of Practice for the ENP-South countries (based on the European statistics Code of Practice), and to ensure the availability and visibility of data to a wide public.

In 2013, a Forum of Euro-Mediterranean statisticians was established and held its first meeting in Luxembourg in May 2013. The mandate of this Forum is to:

  • steer the Euro-Mediterranean regional cooperation partnership in statistics;
  • support ENP-South countries in strengthening the capacity of their national statistical systems to produce, analyse and disseminate harmonised statistics;
  • improve the quality of statistics in the region;
  • promote the use of statistics for evidence-based decision-making;
  • identify emerging statistical issues in the region;
  • ensure coordination with regional and international organisations active in the region.

The Forum is co-chaired by Eurostat and one of the Mediterranean partner countries. Since May 2017, the Haut Commissariat au Plan (Morocco) is co-chairing the Forum.

In addition to the Forum, 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. The twinning tool has been available to ENP-South countries since 2004 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 for full-twinning assistance is the Central Bureau of Statistics of Israel (ICBS), who twinned with Statistics Denmark to further ‘improve the quality and international comparability of […] official statistics in key domains, reliable statistics being required for effective and efficient policymaking’. A twinning has recently been undertaken (2016-2018) between the Tunisian Institute National de Statistique (INS) with INSEE (France) and ISTAT (Italy) for the modernisation of the Tunisian statistical system.

Data collection procedure

Statistical cooperation with the ENP-South countries (with the exception of Libya and Syria) has resulted in a wide range of advances, both for the partner countries and for the EU. The key objectives of cooperation with ENP-South countries include building up statistical capacity and increasing the volume and quality of data collected.

Mediterranean partner countries and Eurostat are not legally obliged to exchange statistical data. However, such data exchanges, are a tangible outcome of international cooperation in statistics with the ENP-South countries and consecutive MEDSTAT programmes. The steady flow of increasingly harmonised, pertinent and timely data from the ENP-South countries to Eurostat has enhanced the relationship between the two regions, and it now underpins stronger mutual evidence-based policymaking.

Data for a set of statistical indicators are collected each year by Eurostat through questionnaires sent to the ENP-South 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.

Dissemination

After validation, the collected data are uploaded onto the ENP-South domain of Eurobase, Eurostat’s free reference database.

Eurostat has traditionally published a pocketbook on Euro-Mediterranean statistics, replaced in 2015 by a statistical book. These publications include comparative tables and graphs on a full range of statistical themes, as well as associated definitions for the indicators used, and hyperlinks to the relevant data sets on Eurobase. The 2015 edition of the statistical book on Euro-Mediterranean statistics allows the geopolitical, economic and social situation across ENP-South countries to be compared with that for the EU as a whole; it is published biennially.

Eurostat also publishes a selection of leaflets for particular topics based on the data collected from ENP-South countries, as well as a series of articles on Statistics Explained.

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.

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Notes

  1. This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the EU Member States on this issue.
  2. Cooperation with Syria is currently suspended due to the political situation in the country.