Brussels, 20 November 2013
Customs: Commission refers Belgium to Court over customs offices’ opening hours and fees
The European Commission has decided to refer Belgium to the EU Court of Justice for failing to bring its legislation into line with EU rules on Customs opening hours and administrative fees. Not only do Belgian customs offices have limited opening hours, but they also charge operators an additional fee for overtime work. Moreover, even within normal opening hours, an extra fee is charged for validating, invalidating and discharging declarations, and for handling requests for repayment. The Commission considers that theses Belgian rules are in violation of European Customs rules. A Reasoned Opinion was sent to Belgium on this matter in May 2011, but in the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission has decided now to refer the case to the EU's Court of Justice.
With regard to the opening hours of customs offices, Article 8 of Protocol 10 to the Agreement on the European Economic Area (AEEA) states that frontier posts must be open for inspections and customs procedures for at least ten hours uninterrupted from Monday to Friday, and on Saturday for at least six hours uninterrupted. Belgian rules, however, allow for shorter hours than these, and consequently some Belgian customs offices have very limited opening hours.
Regarding the fees, Article 30 of the TFEU establishes that charges with equivalent effect to customs duties are prohibited between Member States. The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled that such charges shall also be prohibited in relation to imports from third countries. According to EU rules, customs authorities can however charge a proportionate fee that corresponds to a specific service provided to the operator. The Belgian fees in question do not respect these criteria as they are not calculated against the actual cost of services carried out.
For press releases on infringement cases in the taxation or customs field see:
For the latest general information on infringement measures against Member States see:
On the November infringement package decisions: MEMO/13/1005
On the general infringement procedure: MEMO/12/12