European Commission - Press release
Commission asks Italy to pay due amounts of customs duties to EU budget
Brussels, 27 October 2011 – Today the European Commission asked Italy to comply with the EU law on customs duties and pay the amounts due from the import of fresh bananas to the EU Budget. If Italy fails to act within 2 months, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice.
Between 1998 and 2004 some of the Italian customs offices have accepted customs declarations related to imported bananas with an identical standard weight although weight checks revealed that in most cases the real weight was higher than the weight declared. By systematically accepting declarations which they should have known to be wrong, the Italian authorities have caused a loss of resources to the EU Budget and are considered financially responsible. The loss amounts to EUR 6 742 210.57.
In a similar case concerning customs duties on import of fresh bananas (Commission v. Portugal, Case C-23/10) the Court of Justice ruled that customs authorities must ensure the correct application of customs legislation by checking a customs declaration when they have grounds to consider it incorrect.
The Commission therefore reiterates its request to the Italian authorities to make the due amount (minus collection costs) immediately available. The Commission is determined to protect the common EU purse and, if necessary, refer the case to the European Court of Justice. Fair treatment of all Member States should be ensured because if a Member State fails to make available all the money it owes the EU budget, the other Member States need to pay more as a result.
The Commission decided to bring the case before the Court of justice on 24/06/2010 (ref. E/2010/4091). However, before sending the application, it has been decided to send an Additional Reasoned Opinion under Article 258 TFEU in order to (i) correct a clerical error in the conclusive part of the Reasoned Opinion sent on 1 December 2008, (ii) provide further details on the calculation method and (iii) take into account the Court's ruling in the similar case C-23/10, Commission v. Portugal of 17 March 2011, confirming the Commission's standpoint.
Customs duties, which are charged on imports of goods coming from a non-EU state, are collected by Member States on behalf of the EU and paid to the common EU budget. Member States retain 25 % of the amounts collected to cover collection costs. This traditional own resource makes up only a small part of the EU budget's financial income. In 2011 it will be approximately 12%.
For more information
Homepage of Janusz Lewandowski, Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget
Homepage DG Financial Programming and Budget::
Please also see: MEMO/11/739