Agricultural census - FSS 2003 - Legal background

Legal background of the farm structure surveys in the European Union and in Hungary

Agricultural statistics is the most advanced module of the statistical systems of the European Union; more than 1100 pages of the Acquis Communautaire are devoted to this item. The European Commission and the Council exercise regulatory control over the Union’s information systems through the enforcement of regulations, directives, decisions and recommendations.

Regulations and directives are compulsory for all member states. Regulations form part of the Union’s legislation; the directives are integrated into the national legislation of the member states.

Decisions are obligatory only for the concerned member states. Compliance with the recommendations is left to the discretion of the member states, therefore they have no binding force. In addition to the Council and Commission regulations, directives and decisions, the fourth form of regulatory control in agricultural statistics is the „gentlemen’s agreement” that is also binding for the entities concerned.

The statistical system of the Community operates in accordance with Regulation No. 322/97 of the European Council. By the stipulations of this Regulation the implementation of individual statistical procedures compliant with the Community’s methodology is in the scope of competence of the national authorities, with the exception of surveys regulated in separate agreements. For implementation of the legislation the member states shall provide guarantees for the autonomy of the statistical organisation, adoption of Union’s methodologies, unambiguous interpretation of information reported and confidentiality of data.

The implementation, scope and dissemination of findings of the farm structure surveys, that is the key pillar of the Community’s agricultural statistics, are regulated by Council Regulations and Commission Decisions, which are reviewed and updated for the needs of each subsequent survey. Agricultural surveys have been conducted at Community level since 1966/67. The first effective Council Regulation decreeing a comprehensive farm structure survey was issued in 1988 (Council Regulation No. 571/88/EEC), amended on a number of subsequent occasions. The currently effective Council Regulation No. 2467/96/EC was implemented in 1996.

The Council Regulations decreeing farm structure surveys also stipulate items such as the period of implementation of surveys, definition of the farm being the unit of statistical observation, the degree of coverage, and the principles of allocation of agricultural area under mixed cultivation. They also regulate the aggregation level of reporting by territorial units such as regions, districts, less-favoured areas, mountain areas, and by types of farming. Council Regulations determine the framework of reporting and the budget appropriations for survey implementation, appoint and determine the organisation responsible for implementation (EUROSTAT).

The Commission Decisions determining the scope of farm structure surveys also include a glossary of terms including definitions such as the farm and its geographic location; less-favoured areas, mountain areas; legal entity, management and ownership structure of the farm; land use, arable land, pastures and grassland; plantations and other areas; mixed cultivation, green crop, successive crop,; mushrooms, irrigation, greenhouses, fallow land, livestock, tractors, machines and equipment; agricultural labour force, other income earning activities and the list of agricultural products included in the scope of observation. Commission Decision No. 97/621/EC of September 5th, 1997 is an important milestone in the chronology of regulations relating to the scope. This Decision affords the option for the member states to meet their respective reporting obligations by the use of selected and verified administrative sources of data. The inventory of statutory attributes of farm structure survey in 2003 and the related definitions and explanations of terms is included in Commission Regulations 143/2002/EC and 2002/1444/EC.

The Commission Decisions also determine the method of dissemination of results of farm structure surveys, including deadlines and method of delivery. Council Regulation No. 571/88/EEC decrees the implementation of the EUROFARM project. Commission Decision 89/653/EEC stipulates that statistical information from tabulated databases may only be made available for users if the Statistical Office of the European Communities jointly with their national counterparts in the member states has attested the statistical reliability of the data involved.

There are strict regulations in place in the European Union relating to the delivery and confidentiality of individual data. The Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data was proclaimed in Strasbourg, on January 28th, 1981. This Convention includes, among others, the definition and principles of privacy, the rules of cross-border exchange of data. The Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and the Council includes the principles of confidentiality of the electronic processing of personal data and the free flow thereof. Recommendation R(97)18 of the European Council decrees the confidentiality of personal data collected and processed for statistical purpose. Council Regulation 1588/90 of June 11th, 1990 regulates the system of reporting confidential statistical data to the Statistical Office of the European Communities. Council Regulation No. 322/97 (EK) of February 17th, 1997 stipulates the handling of and access to confidential statistical data. Decision No. 97/281/EK stipulates the options of use of confidential data at EUROSTAT. The latter constituted the basis of the privacy procedure of EUROSTAT.

Hungary joined the first time the farm structure surveys of the European Union at the implementation of agricultural census in 2000. Act XLVI/1999 decreeing the census also defined the statutory concept of the farm, the scope of indices surveyed and the entities responsible for and involved in the census. The implementation of farm structure survey in 2003 compliant with Council Regulation No. 2467/96 EC was one of the requirements raised during the accession negotiations. The implementation of this survey in Hungary is decreed in Governmental Decree No. 227/2002.

The Strasbourg Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data of January 28th, 1981 was proclaimed by the Hungarian Parliament in Act VI/1988. The Act LXIII./1992 includes the protection of individual data and publicity of data of general interest. The Regulation IV/1997. (SK.3) of the President of HCSO includes the regulation of data collection for the HCSO and the institutions under supervision of HCSO regulates the implementation of tasks following from Act XLVI/ 1993 on Statistics and the related Governmental Decree No. 170/1993 (XII.3.).