The customs union abolished customs duties at EU countries' national borders and put in place a uniform system of customs duties on imports. Customs officers not only keep trade flowing, but perform a wide range of tasks to protect Europeans.
The customs union is a single trading area where all goods circulate freely, whether made in the EU or imported from outside. A Finnish mobile phone can be dispatched to Hungary without being subject to any duty and without any customs control.
Duty on goods from outside the EU – say TVs from South Korea – is generally paid when they first enter the EU, but after that there is nothing more to pay and no more checks.
Despite this, customs work in the EU remains vital, especially given the sheer volume of goods entering the bloc. EU customs services handle nearly 16% of total world imports – over 2 billion tonnes of goods a year. To do so, they process well over 260 million declarations annually.
Customs protection includes:
Graph showing seized articles by category
Another major task of EU customs is to tackle fraud, which deprives governments of tax revenue needed for vital public spending, in particular:
EU customs officers also collect statistics as a basis for:
Manuscript updated in November 2014
This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series