As of 1 January 2016, the Netherlands will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) for a period of six months. During this period, Statistics Netherlands’ Director General Dr Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi will chair the EU Council Working Party on Statistics.
Negotiating legislative proposals
One of the many bodies operating within the European Union is the Council Working Party on Statistics. This working party interacts closely with the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission. The Commission initiates new legislative proposals, while the Council and Parliament evaluate these, propose amendments and are finally responsible for adoption. The Council Working Party on Statistics consists of representatives of the 28 EU countries and constitutes a part of the Council. Dr Tjin-A-Tsoi explains, ‘The working party is where the negotiation process takes place: among the individual members and subsequently with Parliament and Commission. I will be leading that process as chairman.’ The chair of the working party must be seen to act without bias. ‘Dutch interests will be served by the representative of Statistics Netherlands within the working party.’
Important legal files
Dr Tjin-A-Tsoi will be assisted by Daan von Berg (Co-Chair) and Lieneke Hoeksma, both international policy advisors at Statistics Netherlands. All three will be in Brussels on a regular basis in the first half of next year for the preparations and negotiations connected with the working party, as well as the actual monthly meetings. One of the topics on the agenda is the calculation of the inflation rate: ‘The price index used by EU countries, the HICP, is currently being discussed,’ Dr Tjin-A-Tsoi says. ‘This index is calculated by the national statistical offices and is important because it has a wide effect, including wage and rent adjustments.’ Von Berg: ‘The European Parliament has recently proposed including price indices of home ownership in the regular HICP. This will be a negotiation topic for the EU members in the coming few months.’
Statistics Netherlands is well-prepared for the Presidency. A special training programme organised by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael focused on the modus operandi of the European Union. Von Berg: ‘Even though Statistics Netherlands was already quite knowledgeable on this subject, a more in-depth study of the complex decision-making process within the European Union and of the role of chair was still very useful.’ Tjin-A-Tsoi cites good collaboration with the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands in Europe and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. ‘They are being very supportive during the preparations.’ He looks forward to a busy but meaningful period. ‘As a member of the European Union, it is our task to take on the presidency every so often. It is a lot of work, we shall be operating in a complex and politically sensitive climate. For example, there is always an area of tension between the role of the Commission as the initiator of legislation on the one hand and the EU member states united in the Council and the European Parliament on the other. I am looking forward to an interesting period. We shall be playing a very relevant role: improving the comparability and thus the quality of European statistics, for instance the above-mentioned inflation rate.’
On the occasion of the Dutch EU Council Presidency, Statistics Netherlands will publish the book ‘The Netherlands on the European Scale’ on 4 January 2016. This publication compares the Netherlands with other members of the European Union in a wide range of areas. ‘The Netherlands on the European Scale’ will be available for download via www.cbs.nl as of January 2016.