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European Commission - Press release

Commission asks the United Kingdom to pay due amounts of customs duties to EU budget

Brussels, 24 November 2011 – Today the European Commission asked the UK to pay to the EU Budget the amounts due from the import of fresh garlic, in order to comply with the EU law on customs duties. If the UK fails to act within 2 months, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice.

Between 2005 and 2006, the UK customs authorities allowed imports of fresh garlic from the People's Republic of China under wrong authorising documents. They have erroneously stated that the goods imported were frozen garlic for which significantly lower import duties apply. The Commission considers that the UK authorities did not act with all due care when issuing the authorising documents and failed to collect the correct amount of duties. They are therefore held financially responsible for the loss of own resources (approximately £20 million) to the EU budget.

The Commission is determined to protect the common EU interest. Fair treatment of all Member States must be ensured. 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.


This case was discovered during an inspection visit of OLAF in July 2006. Several letters have been exchanged in the period 2007 - 2010 to allow the UK to justify the issuing of the authorizing documents at stake. The amount of traditional own resources was requested in January 2008 after the UK provided the necessary data on the garlic imports involved. The infringement procedure was launched in 2010 and a Letter of Formal Notice under Article 258 TFEU was sent.

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 approximately 12% of the income of the EU budget.

For more information

Homepage of Janusz Lewandowski, Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget

Homepage DG Financial Programming and Budget:

Please also see: MEMO/11/824

Contact :

Patrizio Fiorilli (+32 2 295 81 32)

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