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Procedure : 2010/0374(COD)
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Document selected : A7-0076/2012

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Debates :

PV 12/03/2013 - 18
CRE 12/03/2013 - 18

Votes :

PV 13/03/2013 - 8.2
Explanations of votes

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Tuesday, 12 March 2013 - Strasbourg Revised edition

18. System of national and regional accounts (debate)
Video of the speeches

  El Presidente. − El punto siguiente en el orden del día es el debate sobre el informe de Sharon Bowles, en nombre de la Comisión de Asuntos Económicos y Monetarios, sobre la propuesta de Reglamento del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo relativo al Sistema Europeo de Cuentas Nacionales y Regionales de la Unión Europea (COM(2010)0774 – C7-0010/2011 – 2010/0374(COD)) (A7-0076/2012).


  Sharon Bowles, rapporteur. − Mr President, national and regional accounts are the cornerstone of all macroeconomic statistics and are the lens through which we look at our economies.

Everyone agrees that getting the collection of European statistics right is vitally important. One should think back to the start of the economic crisis and realise that manipulating statistics or providing incorrect data can have a detrimental effect on the whole of the EU.

Indeed, it has long been an objective of this Parliament for statistics to be improved and the powers of Eurostat increased. However, Eurostat can only be as good as the statistics it receives.

We have done a lot in the Six Pack and the Two Pack to improve economic governance. In the budgetary framework of the Six Pack, it was agreed that there should be better reporting of public sector liabilities and an end to off-balance sheet accounting for governments. It takes good statistics to track that.

ESA 2010 consists of a regulation accompanied by two annexes. One consists of lists of data which need to be collected and which are quite self-explanatory. The other, the infamous Annex A, consists of the statistical and accounting methodology and is many hundreds of pages long. The lawyer linguists in the secretariat that checked this through and brought several points to my attention deserve a lot of thanks.

Among the various reforms, expenditure on R&D and weapons is transferred into capital formation, which reflects the economic situation. There are some knock-on effects on GDP and subsequent allocation of Structural Funds but these will not impact until 2020 and are small.

Deficit effects will also be monitored and are also expected to be small.

In the trialogues, the mission of the Parliament negotiating team was clear. We wanted good quality statistics, we wanted transparency and we wanted as few derogations to the obligations as possible.

Some smaller Member States do have resource-based reasons for not being able to provide Eurostat with the same volume of statistics as larger Member States, but we wanted to ensure that derogations are kept to a minimum, that they are constantly reviewed and that the Commission provides methodological support for Member States that need it, with a view eventually to discontinuing any derogation.

The agreed wording successfully reflects that.

The biggest sticking point came when four large Member States were reluctant to have mandatory transmission of pension liabilities data as provided for in the Budgetary Frameworks Directive under the Six Pack.

This was unacceptable to Parliament. We saw it as a blatant attempt to keep potentially embarrassing information out of the public domain and away from calculations. In order to press our point, we enlisted public support through the press. How are we to have an honest debate on public finances if Member States insist on hiding uncomfortable truths? After several more rounds of negotiation, we obtained agreement that all Member States will transmit that data. This is a good win for transparency and good governance.

There are other parliamentary achievements in the report, and I thank the shadow rapporteurs for their work on what many saw as a dull file. But, as I have explained, it had its moments of excitement and is also a fundamental tool to deliver proper economic governance.


  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, honourable Members of the European Parliament, good evening to everybody. I have the honour to address you in the name of the Commission and in particular in the name of my colleague, Algirdas Semeta, who is responsible for this file.

The objective of the proposed regulation on ESA 2010 is to revise, update and improve the current European System of Accounts, ESA 95, in line with the recently updated international system of national accounts. It reflects the need for comparable high quality and up to date macroeconomic aggregates for the Member States. This revision is a major project which will set up the national account standards for many years.

At a European level, the ESA is an essential tool for national accounts data used for major administrative purposes such as own resources, excessive deficit procedure and structural funds, and for the analysis of the coordination and convergence of Member States’ economic policies. The revision of the ESA has been based on a wide consultation of the national accounts experts and of users and producers of statistics in Europe.

We consider that the proposal is well-balanced in terms of user data needs and of the burden put on respondents and administrations. Following fruitful discussions, a compromise text was agreed between the European Parliament and the Council with the aim of reaching agreement at first reading. We definitely support the compromise text, because it enables the Commission to obtain the required data for its policies and to exercise its monitoring tasks, even if Recital 16 includes elements that we consider as deviating from the common understanding of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on delegated acts.

The Commission would therefore clearly state that it is of the view that Article 290 of the Treaty is to be interpreted as meaning that it is autonomous in the preparation and adoption of delegated acts. The standard recital on expert advice contained in the common understanding agreed between the three institutions is a reflection of that interpretation. The Commission therefore regrets that Recital 16 deviates from the common understanding.

I would wholeheartedly like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Sharon Bowles, for her deep involvement and a constructive approach to the proposal. Thanks to an excellent cooperation between the three institutions, I believe that we have reached our common objective of setting up a very robust framework for harmonised and reliable national accounts data on which European Union institutions, governments and economic and social operators can base their decisions. The Commission will now concentrate its efforts on preparing the application of ESA 2010, monitoring the full implementation by the Member States of the agreed new framework so that the required statistical data are truly available and fulfilling its own reporting obligations to the European Parliament and the Council in this context.

The Commission is also very much looking forward to pursuing a fruitful dialogue with the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the European Parliament, which is essential for the availability of high quality, transparent and trustworthy national accounts and other macroeconomic statistics for the benefit of sound policy making and of society at large.


  Hübner, Danuta Maria, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. − Mr President, for years there has been no progress in the system of national and regional accounts with regard to the regional level, while the budgetary responsibility of regional governments has increased substantially. More than one third of total public expenditure in the Union is now managed by levels of government other than the central level, exceeding 50 % by far in some Member States. Indeed, collecting regional government statistics is key to understanding public spending choices and the reasons for regional disparities, for establishing coherence and complementarity between interventions and different governance levels, for informing future investment decisions and improving the efficiency of scarce public resources, as well as for assessing the impact of policy intervention, which is particularly important in the case of cohesion policy.

The reporting of data following the COFOG classification of expenditure should be compulsory in order to allow the Commission and stakeholders in general to analyse and understand the patterns of regional public expenditure in its functional breakdown, as well as in its ultimate efficiency and impact.


  Theodor Dumitru Stolojan, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, first of all I would like to thank Ms Bowles for her excellent work on this report. We know very well what kind of problems we had with essential macroeconomic data reported by several countries: distorted budget deficits, hidden liabilities and lack of rules for reporting contingent liabilities. We need more transparent and accurate data and rules that are more harmonised with those of the major trading partners.

The report which we discussed today is the result of long but successful trialogue work and it responds to our request. Therefore, my political group will support this report.


  Antolín Sánchez Presedo, en nombre del Grupo S&D. – Señor Presidente, apoyo el trabajo de la ponente, Sharon Bowles, así como el de los ponentes alternativos, particularmente el de Edward Scicluna, a quien hoy sustituyo y a quien felicito por su elección al Parlamento nacional de Malta.

Las estadísticas son esenciales para el buen funcionamiento de la democracia y de la economía. Contribuyen a mejorar el debate público, las condiciones en que actúan los operadores económicos y la gobernanza económica. Necesitamos estadísticas de calidad, que ofrezcan datos independientes, fiables, comparables y en tiempo oportuno, y que se obtengan mediante métodos sólidos y se transmitan con arreglo a un calendario preciso.

El Sistema Europeo de Cuentas Nacionales y Regionales tiene su origen en 1970 y se rige en la actualidad por un Reglamento de 1996. Se ha establecido en coherencia con el Sistema de Cuentas Nacionales desarrollado por las Naciones Unidas. La presente iniciativa adapta el sistema a la revisión del Sistema Internacional de Cuentas Nacionales de 2009 por la Comisión de Estadística de las Naciones Unidas. El nuevo sistema debe apoyar el reforzamiento de la gobernanza europea y el cumplimiento de los objetivos de Europa 2020.

Las enmiendas introducidas procuran ofrecer datos más completos, salvaguardando, cuando proceda, la confidencialidad. Insisten en la necesidad de una mayor labor metodológica sobre las externalidades ambientales y las desigualdades sociales, así como sobre la investigación y el desarrollo. También promueven cuentas regionales con una nomenclatura común para las políticas de cohesión, el análisis de las interdependencias económicas y el cumplimiento de la Directiva sobre marcos presupuestarios, abordan el tratamiento sobre pasivos contingentes e insisten en la coordinación de la sostenibilidad de las pensiones.

Por todo ello, el Grupo S&D se congratula por el acuerdo alcanzado en primera lectura y confía en que la Comisión desarrollará este Reglamento y presentará los informes que se le encomiendan en el mismo.


  Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, this report is important because it is one of the few in which the Commission has considered the importance of the regional level in the European Union.

I think that the Commission should be more involved in regional statistics, in order to have a clearer picture of what happens in Member States. In Spain, for example, there is no transparency law. Citizens cannot know the territorial distribution of public expenditure by the Spanish central Government. There is also no territorial information about tax collection, which remains centralised. This lack of transparency of the Spanish State is one of the main reasons now fuelling pro-sovereignty feelings in Catalonia. This is why I, in particular, welcome the annex to this regulation. The annex reflects that there should be an analysis of the inter-dependence of regions and Member States. That is why the Liberal Group will support this report. We wish to thank the rapporteur, Sharon Bowles, and all the MEPs, for their good work.


  Sven Giegold, im Namen der Verts/ALE-Fraktion. – Herr Präsident, liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen! Zunächst ist zu sagen, es ist erfreulich, dass sich die Regeln für die volkswirtschaftliche Gesamtrechnung – die statistischen Regeln dazu – verbessern, dass dort auch soziale, ökologische Indikatoren besser abgebildet werden, dass die Daten einer besseren Qualität folgen werden.

Man sollte aber nicht verschweigen, was diese Verhandlungen einige Monate aufgehalten hat. Es gab recht scharfe Auseinandersetzungen mit einigen Mitgliedstaaten im Rat, die nicht wollten, dass wirklich Transparenz, gerade im Bereich der Regierungsrisiken, eingeführt wird – zunächst im Bereich der Pensionslasten, dann im Bereich anderer außerbilanzieller Risiken, etwa bei Public Private Partnerships. Es ist bitter, dass wir selbst nach dem, was im Sixpack an neuen Regeln vereinbart wurde, und nach all den Kosten, die durch die Krise der öffentlichen Finanzen entstanden sind, noch immer nicht in allen Staaten die Bereitschaft feststellen, wirklich Transparenz herzustellen. Nach wie vor ist es attraktiv, Investitionen durch verdeckte Risiken und verdeckte Verschuldung statt über Steuereinnahmen zu finanzieren.

Es ist dem Parlament trotz fraktionsübergreifendem Druck nicht gelungen, hier aufzuräumen. Und es ist umso schlimmer, dass gerade Deutschland, das in diesen Fragen sonst immer auf Zucht und Ordnung Wert legt, hier auf der falschen Seite stand. Das bedeutet, wir werden in eine nächste Runde der Auseinandersetzung gehen. Die Frage ist: Werden Länder – ähnlich wie Unternehmen – irgendwann verpflichtet, scharfe Regeln einzuführen, etwa wie die IPSAS, die es auf globaler Ebene gibt? Hier werden wir uns Ende des Jahres mit dem Rat und der Kommission wiedersehen.


  Vicky Ford, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, governments and public bodies take money from people. I think it is perfectly reasonable for people to know where that money has gone and what the government owes, both on-balance sheet and off-balance sheet.

Two years ago, when I worked for this Parliament on the so-called ‘Six Pack’, the 27 countries agreed that they would disclose what they owed, both on-balance sheet and off-balance sheet. However, within a year, when it came to the detail of the disclosure, suddenly a lot of big countries were saying that they did not want to do this any more. They had changed their minds. It was the smaller groups of this Parliament who brought them back to the negotiating table and said – on behalf of the people who paid the taxes – that they needed to disclose where the money had gone and where there could be problems in the future. So thank you to the smaller groups for standing up for the people and for transparency on this issue.


  Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE). - Köszönöm a szót tisztelt Elnök úr, és köszönöm magát a jelentést is. Azért is, mert a különböző statisztikákkal foglalkozó jelentések kapcsán már számtalanszor felhívtam a figyelmet arra, hogy a statisztikai adattáraknak és a bizottsági, gazdasági elemzéseknek és a háttéranyagokban lévő számoknak pontosnak, a hivatkozási alapját tekintve meghatározottnak, az adatoknak összemérhetőnek, azonos típusú, átlátható eredetűnek kell lenniük, valamint felhívtam a figyelmet azok rendszerbe helyezésének fontosságára is. Nem mindegy ugyanis, hogy a különböző országokat értékelő előrejelzéseket és növekedési jelentéseket milyen statisztikák alapján készítik és mérik össze. Gyakran lehet az az érzésünk, hogy a Bizottság adatai néha túlzóak, mind negatív vagy pozitív irányban, vagy azoknak az eredete éppen homályba vész.

Ezért is tartom kiemelten fontosnak, hogy a rendelkezésre álló közös európai statisztikai adattár mellett a nemzeti és regionális számlák európai rendszere is megbízható, összehasonlítható és időben rendelkezésre álló adatokon nyugszik. Egyetértek, miszerint a most felülvizsgált európai rendszerben a számláknak a legmagasabb minőségi színvonalúnak, megbízhatónak és átláthatónak kell lenniük. Valamely tagállam vagy régió gazdasági helyzetének elemzésére, úgy gondolom, hogy így a gazdasági számlákra és az uniós polgároknak is szükségük van, szükségük van helyi regionális szinten is. Tekintettel arra, hogy éppen a beruházások túlnyomó része, 2/3 része ezen a szinten valósul meg.

Sajnálom azonban, hogy a rendszer nem teljes körű, így a NAC2 és 3 szinten továbbra sem állnak majd rendelkezésre az elemzési felületek, amit kiemelten fontosnak tartok. Összességében az egész jelentést nagyon jónak ítélem meg, előrehaladónak ítélem meg, megbízhatósága tekintetében kiemelten fontosnak. Ezért mindenféleképpen támogatásra javaslom, és én magam is támogatom.


  Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein (PPE). - Jutro będziemy głosować nad tym sprawozdaniem, na które naprawdę jest już najwyższy czas. Dotychczasowe metody zostały uregulowane ponad 17 lat temu, a świat – a tym bardziej gospodarki europejskie – już nie wyglądają dzisiaj tak, jak wtedy. Opisujmy nasz rozwój ekonomiczny za pomocą metod aktualnych, które odpowiadają dzisiejszej rzeczywistości.

Dane statystyczne są niezbędne do świadomego i odpowiedzialnego tworzenia polityk europejskich. Ten system musi być z tego powodu precyzyjny i na czasie. To zwiększy rzeczywistość i przejrzystość podmiotów, które opisujemy, czyli w tym wypadku sektora publicznego. Obywatel, właśnie obywatel będzie głównym beneficjentem tych nowych regulacji, bo będzie w stanie otrzymać wiarygodną i aktualną informację dotyczącą gospodarki wybranego regionu. Na tym skorzysta również cała administracja państw członkowskich, która często opiera swoją pracę i decyzje na danych statystycznych. Musimy wspierać dalszy rozwój badań metodologicznych, bo ma to służyć większemu zrozumieniu sytuacji ekonomicznej w naszym regionie.

Jesteśmy w kryzysie, ciągle się o tym mówi. Ten kryzys właśnie pokazał, jak ważne jest zrozumienie obecnej sytuacji w kontekście bliskiej przeszłości. Spójne, jednakowe i wiarygodne dane dają nam możliwość lepszego zobrazowania zjawisk ekonomicznych. Te dane statystyczne służą nie tylko do opisywania tego, co się stało, ale służą też do podejmowania decyzji publicznych dotyczących przyszłości, a bez nich polityka nie ma nic wspólnego z rzeczywistością, na którą chce wpływać. Dlatego popieramy to ważne i aktualne sprawozdanie.


Intervenciones con arreglo al procedimiento de solicitud incidental de uso de la palabra («catch the eye»)


  Anna Záborská (PPE). - Zaujala ma požiadavka na vytvorenie komplexnejšej metódy na meranie ekonomického blahobytu. Pravidelne totiž upozorňujem na to, že fixácia na HDP spôsobuje selektívnu slepotu, pretože HDP nevidí prácu vykonanú v domácnostiach, ktorá má vyčísliteľnú hodnotu. „Rodiny a domácnosti sú malé továrne“, píše nositeľ Nobelovej ceny za ekonómiu Gary Becker. Čas strávený prácou v domácnosti napovedá, že služby a tovary vyprodukované domácnosťou tvoria významný podiel ekonomických výkonov národov.

Je európskym trendom zvyšovať zamestnanosť žien. Jedným z argumentov je nárast HDP v krajinách ako Švédsko. Lenže – ak zároveň s týmto rastom poklesne počet hodín, ktoré ženy strávia v starostlivosti o deti a domácnosť – nejde o zvýšenie blahobytu. Len práca matky sa zázračne pripočíta k HDP po tom, čo táto matka zaplatí niekomu, aby sa postaral o jej deti, navaril a upratal.


  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). - Zmysluplná evidencia a vykazovanie údajov o hospodárení štátov je základným východiskom pre kvalifikované definovanie ich hospodárskej politiky. Zdokonalenie európskeho systému národných a regionálnych účtov má preto prispieť k skvalitneniu a sprehľadneniu tak, aby štatistické sledovanie, hospodárenie a hodnotenie ekonomiky krajín bolo v súlade s ich hospodárskou skutočnosťou. Z pohľadu reálneho hodnotenia hospodárskeho stavu Únie je potrebné, aby členské štáty poskytovali o svojom hospodárení dôveryhodné, porovnateľné a aktuálne štatistické údaje spracované podľa jednotnej metodiky platnej v Európskej únii.

Aj preto považujem za potrebné podporiť požiadavku obsiahnutú v predloženej správe, aby Komisia upravila program zasielania údajov uvedených v prílohe B, ktorý v navrhnutej podobe nespĺňa parametre jednoduchosti, zrozumiteľnosti a prehľadnosti.


(Fin de las intervenciones con arreglo al procedimiento de solicitud incidental de uso de la palabra («catch the eye»))


  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, maybe just a few explanations, because Ms Bowles mentioned contingent liabilities, on which Parliament was especially active. We are achieving very good progress on the Six Pack, covering contingent liabilities. The Eurostat Task Force report on contingent liabilities was presented to the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), which gave the report its strong support.

The collection of this data – on public private partnerships, debts of public corporations and government guarantees – will be institutionalised while excessive deficit questionnaires with annual, monthly and quarterly data will be available in 2014. Data on pensions will be available in accordance with the provisions of the draft ESA Regulation – with this being optional for 2012 and compulsory starting from 2015 – on a three-year basis and, finally, the Commission is ready to present a report to the ECON Committee, upon request.

It was also said that this is maybe a dull file. I was myself for many years a member of the Governing Board of the Statistical Office of Slovenia – by the way, my PhD was based on social national accounts – and I have probably heard ESA 95 mentioned as many times as anybody here. I can only say that no important and substantial decisions are possible without hard statistical work and long methodological discussions, and I have learnt that the ESA is a kind of statistical bible. So in moving from ESA 95 to ESA 2010 we are taking an extremely important decision. We are bringing stability to the statistical system on the one hand but, on the other hand, we are bringing in new elements through new knowledge and, of course, also new times.

So it might sound dull, but without toil and hard work there is no attraction, no importance and there are no fair decisions. I wish to thank Parliament again and very much look forward, from the Commission’s side, to continuing this work together with Parliament in the future.


  Sharon Bowles, rapporteur. − Mr President, many thanks to the Commissioner for the contribution of the Commission as well.

I am very sorry, Commissioner, that you do not like Recital 16, but economic matters are exceptional – we keep being told that – and the ECB is a major user of these statistics which are fundamental to monetary operations. So we considered that, in this case, we did support putting the ECB’s right to consultation as far as delegated acts. They have that right with regard to all Union acts and, therefore, we consider this to be an extension of that.

You, Commissioner, and also Vicky Ford and Sven Giegold, have mentioned the public liabilities point, so I will come back on that briefly, as well as insisting on mandatory transmission. We did insert more safeguards into the text, including tasking the Commission with reporting back to us on existing information on public private partnerships and other implicit liabilities, which were at the heart of the matter, as you have heard. We also charged the Commission with producing another report assessing whether we need to do even more in this area. We will be watching this closely and I thank you for the update showing that this work is already in hand.

As you also said earlier, we can expect ESA 2010 to last us a fair time – maybe 15 years – and Parliament must stay active in the meantime in promoting increased transparency as regards accounts for the public sector. We are already working on the next statistics file, which is on the functioning of the statistical framework and independence of statistical institutes – Regulation 223 as it is known in the jargon.

Unfortunately, the feedback I have received on that so far is that Member States are again reluctant to sign up or even discuss increased transparency: for example, by publishing on their websites whether there is a commitment on confidence in statistics established in their Member State. I find that very worrying indeed.

However, turning back to ESA 2010, I wish to again thank colleagues and the Commission and recommend my report to this House, with the support of my committee, for a first reading agreement.


  El Presidente. − Se cierra el debate.

La votación tendrá lugar mañana miércoles 13 de marzo, a las 12.00 horas.

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