When CBS took over the chair of the Council Working Party on Statistics last January, three dossiers had been in a position of stalemate for some time. Von Berg: ‘These were the dossiers on Extrastat (external trade with non-member countries), rail transport statistics and inland waterways transport statistics. We were able to get these statistics dossiers moving again by looking closely at possible openings – no matter how small – to work towards a compromise between the different viewpoints.’ Hoeksma adds: ‘We initiated many bilateral talks with a wide range of parties and so were able to arrive at solutions which were satisfactory to everyone involved.’ According to Von Berg, CBS had already done a lot of important work last year in the run-up to the Presidency, using quiet diplomacy to accelerate the completion of the dossiers.
On behalf of the Netherlands, CBS not only managed to successfully finalise the three pending dossiers, but also started up and completed a new dossier, namely on energy price statistics. Hoeksma explains: ‘This was about the prices of natural gas and electricity for households. These statistics used to be compiled in accordance with an EU Directive, but are now subject to an EU Regulation. This means that, as of 1 March 2017, statistical offices in all member countries will be obliged to provide these statistics to Eurostat.’ The legislative file on balance of payments, international trade in services and foreign direct investment was also completed. A result of the latter is that, after completing feasibility studies, in the future member states will probably be required to submit extra data to the European Parliament on foreign direct investment.
Satisfied and proud
Meanwhile, Von Berg and Hoeksma have handed over all the files to their peers at the statistical office of the Slovak Republic. Hoeksma: ‘They took over the Presidency on 1 July and by September will be able to start negotiations on new legislative proposals for expansion of the statistical programme and revision of social statistics.’ Looking back, Von Berg and Hoeksma are satisfied with and proud of the progress made during the Dutch Presidency of the EU Council Working Party on Statistics. Von Berg: ‘I was also involved in the EU Presidency on behalf of CBS in 2004. The difference with this Presidency is that the past six months posed a much great challenge, mostly because we needed to take action on the three deadlocked dossiers.’ Hoeksma captures her recent experience in one word: fantastic. ‘I learned a great deal and it was very interesting being able to work at the European Union in Brussels. Expectations for the Netherlands were high but we lived up to all of them.’