Taking Customs Union to the next level

The proposed measures will address the new challenges such as the rising e-commerce frauds

Photo: EU Paolo Gentiloni.

Initiatives on reducing the risks and making customs authorities in the EU countries acting as one, are among the main elements of the Customs Action Plan, launched by the Commission on Monday. 

The plan aims to help the EU Customs Union address challenges like he UK’s exit from the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union, the rise of digitalisation and e-commerce and other unprecedented fast changing business models around the globe.

Despite a major modernisation of EU customs legislation in  2016,  issues  as  undervaluation  of  goods  to  avoid  customs  duties  and VAT and of smuggling  of illicit or unsafe goods still exist. Imbalances between EU states  in  customs  controls  and  of  goods  being  diverted  towards  the  weakest  entry  and  exit points to the EU customs territory to avoid detection, are also giving rise of concerns.

The new steps are very important as every  month  the  EU27  export and import goods from and to  the  rest  of  the  world  with  a  value  of  around  €330bn.  OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, recommended  the  recovery  of  over  €2.7bn in unpaid customs duties for undervalued goods and €300m for anti-dumping duty cases  in  the  solar  panel,  bio-diesel  and  other  sectors between 2017 and 2019. E-commerce also has given rise to fraud at customs.

The EU Customs Union was one of the first concrete achievements of European integration and for more than five decades it has helped to protect Europeans and keep trade flowing across our borders – which are only as strong as their weakest link, stressed Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, while presenting the proposal. 

Saying that new challenges mean that we need to make our customs rules smarter and ensure they work better for Member States, citizens and legitimate businesses, he noted that this calls for improved use of data, better tools and equipment, and more cooperation within the EU and with customs authorities of partner countries. “Today, we set out how we will take our Customs Union to the next level.”

In the plan’s scope is establishing of a new analytics hub within the Commission for collecting, analysing and sharing key customs data. According to the document, these analyses will inform critical decisions, help customs authorities identify weak points at the EU's external borders and manage future crises.

The blueprint foresees as well tackling the new challenges of e-commerce, obligations on payment service providers and online sales platforms. All this will be strengthened to help fight customs duty and tax fraud in e-commerce.

The other task on the list of actions is creation of ‘Single Window’, a digital space that will allow businesses to complete border formalities in one single portal. A legislative proposal on this initiative will be tabled by the EU executive in October.

Important jobs on the agenda for the months to come are rolling-out under the  next  EU budget of   modern   and   reliable digital infrastructure on which customs operate, and stepping up international customs cooperation with trade partners such as China and the monitoring of the origin of products eligible to preferential trade arrangements. 

Financing will be available for the development and support of the customs electronic systems necessary to make customs a paperless environment.

Early next year will be formed reflection group of Member States and stakeholders under the customs programme to consider how to make the Customs Union smarter, more agile, more technologically advanced and more crisis-proof.

 

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