Strategy for the evolution of the Customs Union

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Strategy for the evolution of the Customs Union

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Justice freedom and security > Police and customs cooperation

Strategy for the evolution of the Customs Union


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 1 April 2008 entitled Strategy for the evolution of the Customs Union [COM(2008) 169 final- Not published in the Official Journal].


The Customs Union, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2008, is undergoing a major review. The Commission and Member States have identified the need to adapt to changing production and consumption patterns, increasing international trade and to global threats such as terrorism, organised crime, climate change and dangerous goods.

This Communication aims to complete the process by reforming the future organisation and human dimension of customs administrations. This implies improving the skills of customs staff and re-allocating resources efficiently and effectively.

Customs account for 13.2% of the Community budget by way of collected duties, representing more than 15 billion EUR per year. Sourcing of goods and materials has become global, and concepts such as just-in time delivery have raised expectations for economic operators of less intrusive customs controls.

Customs not only support legitimate trade and enhance competitiveness, but also play a key role in ensuring the correct payment of duties and taxes, combating counterfeiting and piracy, supporting the fight against fraud, organised crime, drugs and terrorism, implementing trade policy measures and protecting the environment and citizens against all manner of hazardous goods.

Modernisation of the legal and technological environment in customs includes the following:

the amended Community Customs Code, which has enabled European Union (EU) customs authorities to implement some of the most advanced security requirements in the world;

the Modernised Customs Code, which will simplify customs and trade tasks to make them more efficient and cost-effective;

the Electronic Customs Decision, which sets out the basic framework and major deadlines for the electronic customs project and provides a basis for the Commission, Member States and economic operators to plan their own resources;

the further development of pan-European electronic customs systems, which will help create a robust chain of communication between customs authorities throughout the Community, customs and other public authorities operating at the border, and public authorities and traders;

the proposal to amend the mutual administrative assistance provisions in customs matters would streamline and improve current IT systems to enhance capacity in the fight against fraud in the customs sector.

The new strategic framework aims to transforming customs into a modern and responsive partner to trade, whilst protecting fiscal, safety and security interests. EU customs must fulfil the following objectives:

  • Protection:

    Customs services need to ensure protection of society as well as financial interests of the Community. Customs shall reinforce the fight against fraud, organised crime, drugs and terrorism as well as against the spread of illicit, dangerous or counterfeited and pirated goods. This should be achieved by further developing effective risk assessment and using mutual administrative assistance to ensure proper application of the law in customs-related matters.

  • Competitiveness:

    Customs authorities can support the competitiveness of European businesses by modernising and harmonising working methods (e.g. using systems-based approaches) as well as by creating a paperless customs environment (implementing electronic customs). In this respect the Commission recommends EU customs services to take a pro-active stance in endorsing international standards such as those developed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and developing new EU standards, which could serve as a model worldwide.

  • Facilitation of legitimate business:

    Overall customs need to work at improving their control systems, in order to reduce administrative burden and interference in the flow of goods to the minimum necessary to ensure security objectives. Customs can also support legitimate economic operators by providing facilitations with a view to reducing compliance costs.

  • Control:

    Customs services can manage and control supply chains used for international movement by improving and strengthening effective checks, as well as correctly and consistently implementing Community and national legislation relating to the control and movement of goods. Furthermore effective and systematic enhancement of sharing of risk information needs to be enhanced as well as establishing end-to-end control and management in the entire supply chain.

  • Cooperation:

    The customs authorities of the Member States, the government agencies and the business community continue to cooperate closely in achieving the common objectives of protecting citizens as well as the financial interests of the Community. Customs shall take a leading role in developing new mechanisms of coordination between border-related agencies (development of Single Window). Also the co-operation with business should be enhanced and the international cooperation and mutual administrative assistance should be reinforced.

  • New working methods and competences:

    Customs services need to continuously develop and strategically invest in the skills, competences and resources, which can maintain customs efficiency and effectiveness. A structured approach is the first step ensuring a synchronised and harmonised method throughout the 27 Member States for achieving the strategic objectives.

    The above-mentioned objectives will be incorporated into a multi-annual strategic plan. This plan will be elaborated in detail in a comprehensive implementation plan which will represent a tool for planning specific actions and projects. These documents will provide a clear direction for customs services’ operations in 2013 – 2019. With the approval of the strategic framework all systems of data exchange and databases, including those dedicated to the fight against fraud, should be interoperable and operate complementarily.

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