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Document 52001AE0929

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC, Euratom) No. 58/97 concerning structural business statistics"

OJ C 260, 17.9.2001, p. 54–56 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)


Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC, Euratom) No. 58/97 concerning structural business statistics"

Official Journal C 260 , 17/09/2001 P. 0054 - 0056

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC, Euratom) No. 58/97 concerning structural business statistics"

(2001/C 260/10)

On 21 February 2001 the Council decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee, under Article 262 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the aboved-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 26 June 2001. The rapporteur was Mr Bento Gonçalves.

At its 383nd plenary session (meeting of 11 July 2001), the Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion with 112 votes in favour and five abstentions.

1. Introduction

1.1. This opinion relates only to the amendments proposed to Regulation No. 58/97, as referred to in point 2 (Gist of the proposal). The Regulation itself has already been the subject of a Committee opinion(1).

1.1.1. Regulation No. 58/97 provides the main legal framework for the collection, compilation, transmission and evaluation of statistics on the structure, activity, competitiveness and performance of businesses.

1.2. The permanent assessment of the single market in financial services and the backup provided by economic statistics about credit institutions, pension funds and other financial services are necessary for the development of the single market, for assessing its competitiveness and dynamism and for comparing the EU's economy with the other major economies in the world.

1.3. Environmental regulations make it necessary to evaluate the cost of complying with such regulations, thereby improving their planning, application and enforcement.

1.3.1. Harmonised and comprehensive data about environmental expenditure will make for better policymaking and increase the level of protection at - maybe - lower cost.

1.4. Data about other financial intermediation activities and financial auxiliaries are also to be collected and processed.

2. Gist of the proposal

2.1. Two extra annexes are to be added to Regulation No. 58/97, viz.:

- Annex 6 - Credit institutions

- Annex 7 - Pension funds.

- The coverage of the horizontal module (Annex 1) is also to be extended to include:

- Other financial intermediation services

- Pension funds

- Financial auxiliaries.

- Finally, two additional environmental variables are to be included in Annex 2 of the SBS Regulation (industry activities).

3. General comments

3.1. High-quality statistics - and in particular statistics which are relevant, precise, timely, comparable, consistent, complete and reliable - are necessary, firstly, to enable the political powers at all levels to frame and adopt suitable policies and, secondly, to provide organisations representing employers and workers and other associations with data on which to base their activities. However, it is important to ensure that this does not impose additional administrative and/or financial burdens on businesses.

3.1.1. Below are a number of areas in which suitable policies for removing obstacles to progress are lacking:

- monetary integration (single currency);

- functioning of the single market and assessment of its effectiveness, as well as the increasingly important sector of credit institutions, pension funds, financial intermediation activities and financial auxiliaries;

- liberalisation of international trade, including financial services;

- competition, social, environmental and corporate policies, etc.;

- national and regional accounts;

- prudential supervision of credit institutions;

- pension funds - a high-growth sector.

3.2. Globalisation

3.2.1. Because of globalisation, the EU also requires statistics to assess the development and performance of the world's main economic areas. The EU's system of statistics will have to cater for this.

3.3. Confidentiality

3.3.1. The confidentiality of the data collected must be fully guaranteed, in accordance with the legal provisions already established at Community level.

3.4. Updating

3.4.1. The updating of statistics will have to be a major objective. Delays in the collection, processing and dissemination of data are not acceptable.

3.5. Availability

3.5.1. The processed data will have to be available promptly. Otherwise, they may no longer be relevant.

3.6. Vocational training

3.6.1. A point about the cost of continuing training will have to be included.

3.7. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

3.7.1. The number of small and medium-sized enterprises in the EU-15(2) is impressive, putting these enterprises at the forefront of job and enterprise creation in the Member States, especially in remote areas:

- number of enterprises: 19370000;

- number of persons employed: 75550000.

These figures do not include agricultural SMEs.

3.7.2. In the Committee's view, this situation in the EU justifies the development of a specific module for processing data on SMEs. This module should include specific information on, for example, the setting-up and situation of businesses, as these data are very important for the economic environment. However, this new activity must not make additional demands on small and medium-sized enterprises or involve them in additional formalities. The cost of collecting and processing the data must not outweigh the benefits gained.

3.7.3. Agricultural SMEs will play an important role in environmental statistics.

4. Specific comments

4.1. Article 1

4.1.1. The following indents are to be added to Article 5 of Regulation No. 58/97:

- a detailed module for structural statistics on credit institutions, as described in Annex 6;

- a detailed module for structural statistics on pension funds, as described in Annex 7.

Annexes 6 and 7 are also to be added.

4.2. Article 2

4.2.1. In Annex 1 of Regulation No 58/97 a sentence is to be added to section 5 about the first reference year for which statistics on the activity classes covered are to be compiled.

4.2.2. The deadlines for the transmission of data by the Member States are to be laid down in an amended section 8.

4.2.3. Financial intermediation, which comes under Section J, is to be included in Section 9 (new) of Annex 1 to Regulation No. 58/97 (NACE 4-digit level).

4.2.4. An amendment to the first sentence of section 10 paragraph 1 is to make it obligatory for Member States to send the Commission a report relating to the definition, structure and availability of information on various statistical units.

4.3. Article 3

4.3.1. Various amendments are proposed to Annex 2 regarding:

- section 4, paragraph 3;

- section 4, paragraph 4;

- pollution control equipment;

- expenditure on environmental protection and the like;

- variables relating to expenditure on environmental protection (including investment in integrated technologies).

4.3.2. An addition is to be made to section 7 specifying that results are to be broken down according to the following environmental domains:

- protection of ambient air and climate;

- wastewater management;

- waste management and other environmental protection activities.

4.3.3. The other environmental protection activities are to include:

- protection of soil;

- protection of groundwater;

- noise and vibration abatement;

- protection of biodiversity and landscape, plus radiation and R& D;

- general administration of the environment and indivisible expenditure.

5. Conclusions

5.1. The Committee endorses the proposal amending Regulation No 58/97, which is to add two new annexes on specific sectors (credit institutions and pension funds), extend Annex 1 (other financial intermediation services and financial auxiliaries) and include two additional environmental variables in Annex 2 (industry activities).

5.2. The Committee would again emphasise the need to collect data for statistical purposes in connection with the general assessment of the costs involved in protecting the environment.

Brussels, 11 July 2001.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Göke Frerichs

(1) OJ C 236, 11.9.1995, p. 61.

(2) See the Committee Opinion on The craft sector and SMEs in Europe, OJ C 221, 7.8.2001.