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MEMO/06/495

Brussels, 18 December 2006

EU customs security amendments – Frequently Asked Questions

(see also IP/06/1821)

When will the measures enter into force?

The regulation is implementing 4 measures:

  • A risk management framework ensuring that customs control of goods crossing the EU borders will have immediate effect;
  • An Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Certificate will be granted to reliable economic operators as of 1 January 2008; and
  • Traders will have to supply customs authorities with advance information on goods brought into, or out of, the European Community as of 1 July 2009.
  • Customs authorities will be required to exchange information electronically on exports between the customs offices involved in the procedure (export control system). Full implementation of this measure is expected by 30 June 2007.

Will the implemented measures be applied uniformly in the customs territory?

Yes, as far as the AEO certificate is concerned, detailed AEO guidelines were elaborated to ensure uniform interpretation by all customs administrations. The AEO Certificate will be given according to uniform criteria in the 25 (soon 27) Member States and will be recognised in all Member States.

Furthermore, guidelines will also be developed for risk management. These will be destined only for customs and will contribute to a uniform approach as regards risk analysis in the EC – thus ensuring that the same risks are treated with the same measures in the 25 (27) Member States.

What are the advantages of getting an AEO certificate?

Reliable and compliant traders will benefit from simplifications in the customs procedures and/or from facilitation with regard to customs controls relating to safety and security

Secure AEOs (certificate with facilitation with regard to customs controls related to security) may be informed that their consignment has been selected for controls and will get priority treatment for controls.

They will also be allowed to submit less data for the pre-arrival/departure declaration. and will also be subject to fewer controls as they would be considered as secure partners by customs and as their compliance and reliability would have been thoroughly checked when the AEO Certificate was given.

With regard to those opting for customs simplified procedures in one Member State, any request to extend them in another Member State will be eased: the customs administration of that Member State will only examine the criteria that have not yet been checked when the AEO Certificate was issued. Customs will thus not need to duplicate checks and simplifications will be given quicker than today.

The AEO concept should ensure a safer and more secure end-to-end supply chain. Being recognised as an AEO will constitute an added value for the operator, as it demonstrates compliance with solid security criteria and controls. This will provide a competitive advantage to participating companies.

Does the Commission envisage mutual recognition of the AEO standards (security facilitation) with third countries?

The EC has launched discussions with a couple of its major trading partners.

The Community has concluded an agreement on strengthened co-operation on security with the US. Discussions are ongoing with the US to reach a mutual recognition of our standards.

The EC is currently working on a pilot project between the EC and China on smart and secure trade lanes. The objective of this co-operation is to achieve mutual recognition of our security standards and of the AEO Cerificate (IP/06/1206).

The Community is also close to negotiating mutual recognition agreements with Switzerland and Norway to ensure that the entry into force of the pre-arrival/departure declarations that have to be provided within certain time-limits doesn’t negatively impact the fluidity of customs procedures between the EC and these countries.

Will the same criteria apply to all economic operators? Will it be possible for SMEs to get an AEO Certificate?

The same criteria will apply to all economic operators wishing to get an AEO Certificate. However, these criteria are flexible and will be implemented through different measures. This means that while a small company will have to implement the same criteria as a big company, it will implement it through different practical measures. A small company consisting of 15 employees working in a small building where it is visible who enters/leaves the building wouldn’t need a video-camera or a security officer at the entrance. In a big company where 150 employees are working in three different buildings and where trucks regularly deliver and fetch goods, there is obviously a need for a security officer at the entrance who checks identities of people/trucks entering and leaving the premises.

Who will be able to become Authorized Economic Operator?

Any economic operator who fulfils the AEO requirements will be able to become AEO.

The system is flexible enough to allow manufacturers, warehouse keepers, customs agents, exporters, freight forwarders, carriers and importers complying with the set out criteria and becoming AEO. While there is no legal obligation to become AEO, the Commission expects that many economic operators will put some pressure on their providers and partners so that AEO would in the long term have interest to work with other AEOs. The more AEOs are involved in the supply chain, the more secure the supply chain is. The status of the AEO will thus become more and more attractive for economic operators.

Does the introduction of the AEO certificate mean that someone who is not AEO will be in a disadvantageous situation in comparison with today?

No. The AEO certificate grants benefits for AEOs but will not take away advantages that economic operators have today outside the AEO status.

Does the Commission expect extra costs for traders to implement these measures?

This regulation is based on a balanced approach between security and trade facilitation. It requires economic operators to provide customs authorities with electronic information on goods prior to import into or to export from the EU, and at the same time, provides reliable traders with trade facilitation measures (Authorised Economic Operator concept). Prior information sent to customs before departure of the goods will allow the authorised economic operators to know in advance whether their goods will be checked by customs upon arrival or departure, thereby allowing them to gain time and money.

Traders wishing to benefit from the certificate will not have to put in place a great number of additional measures, as most companies already have in place security requirements, for example to prevent illicit access to their premises or for insurance purposes. Furthermore, the security measures will depend on the features of the respective company.

What are the main benefits of the introduction of the export control system for traders?

Customs authorities will exchange electronic messages instead of paper based declarations: this would allow quicker certification of export for traders which will improve legal certainty with regard the 0% VAT rate applied on exports.

The paper-based document (Copy No 3 of the Single Administrative Document) certifying the exit of the goods will be replaced by an electronic message, so that the risk of lost documents (and thus the risk of not being relieved from VAT) will be reduced significantly.

What are the time limits for traders to provide information before the goods entering or leaving the EU customs territory?

The EC tried to align the time-limits with the ones set out in the World Customs Organisation (WCO) SAFE Framework of Standards. The WCO time-limits were adapted where necessary to take the geographic situation of Europe into consideration (for example short sea shipping between Morocco and Spain).

There are different time limits for different means of transport. They vary between 24 hours before loading (container sea cargo in certain cases) and 30 minutes prior to departure (air traffic).

Shorter time-limits will apply between neighbouring countries with which mutual recognition of control results and security measures will be agreed. Agreements could foresee that the risk assessment is carried out by the country of export, in which case the time-limit for transmission of data could be reduced to zero (for example vis-à-vis Norway, Switzerland and Andorra).

The time-limits are set at the shortest time possible to allow for effective risk analysis by customs and take account of the various types of trade and modes of transport and of international agreements.


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