Brussels, 24 July 2003
Customs: the Commission is proposing to simplify administration and strengthen security at its external borders
A greater role for customs in managing security at the EU's external borders is the keystone of a new communication and proposal to amend the EU customs code from the European Commission. The Commission has also adopted another communication setting out an action plan for a thorough revision of customs procedures with twin aims of radical simplification and updating to make full use of the possibilities provided by IT. These are the first stages of a process that, over time, will provide the public with more effective protection from dangerous goods coming into the EU and promote trade.
“We must strike the right balance between the need for greater security and the legitimate concerns of traders regarding obstacles legal trade”, said Frits Bolkestein, European Commissioner for customs. “These new initiatives will enable European customs authorities to respond accordingly.”
Greater security for goods entering the EU
Obviously, traded goods can sometimes be dangerous; they can pose a threat to the health and wellbeing of European consumers. Considerations of this nature must be integrated into the daily work of customs authorities, without impeding the flow of goods crossing our external borders. Accordingly the Commission's communication sets out its plans to strengthen the role of customs.
First, the Communication points out that, in view of the danger of deliberate attacks, and the health, environment and public-safety risks associated with dangerous and illegal goods, security checks are not sufficiently harmonised, are too diversified and sometimes too slow to enable the authorities to respond to new threats.
The Communication therefore proposed that security checks be improved and reinforced. This would involve:
The Commission's plans to produce the Communication, which focuses on checks on goods, were announced in another Communication in May 2002, which dealt primarily with checks on people (see IP/02/661). The two Communications complement each other and together form the first stages of a global strategy, proposed by the Commission, for integrated management of the EU's external borders in response to the call for this made by the European Council in Laeken in December 2001.
Ensuring the same level of protection at all points of entry to the European Union
The purpose of the proposal for a Regulation amending the Community Customs Code is to bring together the basic concepts underlying the new security-management concept for the EU's external borders, such as a harmonised system for risk assessment. The Commission therefore is therefore proposing a number of measures to tighten security around goods crossing international borders. The measures will be good for customs authorities, good for the public and good for traders because they will mean faster and better targeted checks. The proposed measures would:
A simpler, paper-free customs environment
There are a number of reasons why customs procedures and customs checks have to be improved. Among these are: e-Europe, a political priority aimed at ensuring that Member States' Governments are accessible electronically; EU enlargement and the need for security. Above all, a redistribution of tasks is required between customs offices on the external border and offices inside the Community's customs territory. At the border, checks should focus on the security aspects of goods and whether they can be let in. Inside the territory, access to importers' and exporters' accounting information will make it easier to carry out commercial and fiscal checks.
The Communication proposes that customs procedures and checks be made more effective through simplification of customs legislation and better use of computers for customs procedures.