The role of customs in the integrated management of external borders

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The role of customs in the integrated management of external borders

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The role of customs in the integrated management of external borders


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Justice freedom and security > Police and customs cooperation

The role of customs in the integrated management of external borders

Document or Iniciative

Communication of 24 April 2003 from the Commission to the Council, European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee on the role of customs in the integrated management of external borders [COM(2003) 452 final – Official Journal C 96 of 21.4.2004]


The present customs controls applied to goods are not adequate to protect the Member States from the growing threats to the EU at its external borders. Chief among these are:

  • Criminal and terrorist threats

    This category includes the introduction into the Community of prohibited goods such as explosives or nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, and also smuggling or trafficking of illegal goods such as drugs, cigarettes and counterfeit goods, often used to finance to finance terrorist organisations or organised crime.
  • Health and safety risks to consumers

    This category covers the unauthorised import of contaminated goods, narcotics and anabolic substances, and medicines and consumer products that do not comply with Community safety standards.
  • Environmental and health risks

    These include illegal trafficking of species of fauna and flora in danger of extinction, radioactive matter and risks associated with the undeclared introduction into Community territory of animal or vegetable species or products.

At present the measures, priorities, investment, equipment and resources used to combat these threats and protect the Community and its citizens differ from one Member State to the next. This means that security controls are neither harmonised nor uniform at Community level, and responses to threats at the external borders are sometimes slow. Common, integrated management of the external borders therefore needs to be established.

Customs operations need to be reorganised to increase the safety of goods. Hence the Communication proposes rationalising customs controls by identifying which ones could be carried out at internal borders to enable controls at external borders to focus on the goods that absolutely must be checked there for safety reasons.

The Commission proposes establishing a common approach to risk at the external borders. In the end this will mean all the authorities with responsibilities relating to the safety of goods (including customs, the police, consumer protection, health protection and environmental protection authorities) working together to establish priorities and define common risk profiles. The risk profiles can be used to identify the most relevant data for risk analyses.

In the long run this should also mean that traders will be able to electronically transmit all data on their goods to customs for initial identification of risks. The data should be supplied in electronic format to facilitate their transfer, evaluation and processing. Customs will then have to centralise the information and send it to the competent authorities. A single transmission channel will have to be set up for this purpose, and it should be possible to process the information on the basis of the profiles established by all the authorities concerned. Effective and rapid systems for information transmission between customs and the other relevant authorities will have to be set up and operated.

Because of their experience in identifying movements of goods, customs will have to cooperate more closely with the police in fraud investigations and have a more specific role in policing goods.

The material and human resources necessary to implement the approach will need to be available at any point along the external borders. Where bulky or particularly expensive equipment is involved, it may be found desirable to designate certain specialised border posts to control certain well-defined types of goods, and to provide them with the necessary special equipment. This would make it possible to spread equipment costs more equitably and to concentrate expertise at these specialised posts. However, such specialisation should not create an obstacle to legitimate trade by imposing additional costs for processing goods at posts far from their destinations.

The proposal presents initiatives which could be introduced for sharing data on goods moving from one country to another to allow more effective identification of high-risk traffic. This would allow the transfer of data received from the exporting country, where information is easier to locate and fuller, and so accelerate customs procedures without compromising security. The Community should promote this principle of sharing responsibility with its neighbours and main trade partners.

The Community should also step up export controls.

In the interests of risk management on its external borders, the Community should increase its cooperation with third countries and countries with which it shares borders.

Measures to support the new Member States should also be adopted, in particular under the Customs 2007 programme.


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