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Brussels, 2 April 2008

Customs beyond 2013: Commission launches a debate on the future evolution of Customs

The European Commission has adopted a Communication in order to develop a long term strategy for the evolution of the Customs Union. The Communication enumerates the strategic objectives for Customs based on present developments, such as Electronic Customs and Modernised Customs Code, and proposes a coordinated approach for the customs working methods in order to meet theses objectives. It stresses the need to develop as soon as possible a multi-annual strategic plan and a comprehensive implementation plan which would ensure that all actors (Commission, Member States and traders) are able to make their own resource planning and would be ready in time to meet the objectives of a more efficient EU Customs.

László Kovács, EU Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs, said: "We have recently made huge progress at EU level in modernising customs with the adoption in 2008 by the European Council and the Parliament of the Modernised Community Customs Code and the Electronic Customs initiative". "It is however already time to reflect on a new long term strategy in order to maintain the high performing EU customs. Therefore, the Commission needs clear political guidance from the Council to elaborate such a strategy and full commitment from the Member States in providing the necessary resources for the future developments".

Customs authorities today, faced with a rapidly changing and challenging environment, must ensure that they continue to provide a first-class service to EU citizens and companies.

Therefore, the Communication proposes to set out a strategic framework in order to allow Customs meeting strategic objectives beyond 2013. That includes particularly the following aspects:

  • Increasing competitiveness of European business by modernising customs working methods;
  • facilitating legitimate trade by improving customs control systems and reducing administrative burden;
  • enhancing protection of the society against safety and security risks by developing effective risk management methods and ensuring protection of financial interests of the Community;
  • enhancing co-operation between customs authorities as well as with other governmental agencies and with the business community.

Without a coordinated approach within the EU, Customs will not reach these objectives. The Commission therefore invites the Council to approve the strategic framework and give a political support to the Commission in developing a multi-annual strategic plan and an implementation plan which would ensure that all actors (Commission, Member States and traders) are able to make their own resource planning and would be ready in time in the future steps towards an evermore efficient EU Customs.


The EU Customs Union, which celebrates its 40th anniversary on 1 July 2008, is a foundation of the European Community.

The Customs authorities of the EU play a crucial role: their mission is to ensure at all times the balance between protecting society and facilitating trade at the external border as well as within the EU. Customs services have information about every movement of goods imported into or exported from the EU and they apply sophisticated systems and methods to control all types of goods. The volumes of goods movements across the external borders of the European Union are enormous. Approximately 173 million customs declarations were handled in 2006. Only highly efficient customs authorities can manage such a huge volume without causing major delays or allowing fraudulent, undesirable or illegal movements.

In order to allow Customs to continue to play their role in this challenging environment, an ambitious reform has been launched at the beginning of the century. The modernised Community Customs Code adopted in 2005 (IP/05/1501), empowers EU customs authorities to implement some of the most advanced security requirements in the world, while creating an environment that does not disrupt legitimate trade.

The Electronic Customs Decision already provides a significant step forward in linking national customs Information and Communication Technology systems, benefiting both customs and trade. By meeting the needs of modern logistics, a pan-European electronic customs will increase the competitiveness of companies doing business in Europe, reduce compliance costs and improve security at the EU borders.

These are important legal and technological steps (expected to be fully implemented by 2013) which will better equip customs both for the immediate future and the medium term.

But it is necessary to look beyond this and to set out a strategic framework to streamline all these initiatives and to enhance developments in other areas of the customs work, such as in the field of customs working methods, so that a co-ordinated approach is ensured at a Community level. This final element of the reform process would enable customs to smoothly evolve in line with international trade, so as to continue to offer the protection expected by citizens, business and governments, whilst contributing to the economic competitiveness of the EU.

Further information on the Communication can be found at this web link:

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