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László Kovács

European Commissioner in charge of Taxation and Customs Union

Closing speech

Modernised Customs Code Conference
Budapest, 11 March 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After two days of intensive debates and discussion between the main stakeholders, I am pleased to see that you have come to concrete and positive conclusions on the Modernised Customs Code.

You must be aware that we are setting ourselves a daunting task. But if we look back, more ambitious and visionary projects such as the single market in 1992, the euro in 1999 or even enlargement and the Constitution in the last twelve months, we know that together we can deliver the results that Europe’s citizens demand.

We should not lose the vision on the way to the adoption of the Modernised Customs Code: customs legislation as a key element of competitiveness for our businesses, and of improved security for our citizens.

I feel very encouraged by the trader community interest and concrete proposals for the Modernised Customs Code.

As regards rights and oligations of the declarant, I recognise the difficulties involved in tackling the situation of customs agents. Some Member States explicitly recognise this profession – others do not. I am encouraged to see that a majority agrees with two fundamentals:

  • one, that customs agents of one Member States must be able to exercise their activity in whole Community,
  • and two, that the competitive position of customs agents is not a question of a reserved activity but one of being competitive through high quality standards.

Both, trade and customs agree that the new concept of Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) can be a helpful tool in that respect.

Moreover, there is general agreement on the usefulness and validity of this concept for the granting of all possible simplifications. Central Clearance is an attractive concept for trade although – to be fully adapted to their needs – it will have to further integrate VAT, excise and statistical rules. The importance of simplifications for SMEs has been stressed particularly.

The issue of administrative penalties appears to be a very challenging one. I do recognise the difficulty in setting up a system for customs infringements and the disintegration of the overall national sanction concept that this will mean. We have, however, to be aware that the explicitly recognised need for common criteria for AEO and especially the requirements regarding their compliance record, makes a strong case for further working on this subject. It is, anyway, encouraging to see that on the more technical side common views on possible criteria and administrative sanctions are beginning to emerge.

In the fourth group, which has dealt with the technical but important subject of customs debt, I understand that the essence of changes have remained uncontested. Concerning guarantee requirements, I would like to invite my services to further analyse whether or not we have found the right balance between the flexibilities and facilities that we offer and the potential costs the new rules may generate.

To sum up, the two days Conference has highlighted the need to pursue consultations with all stakeholders, both at national and european level.

I can confirm that the Commission will continue to consult all stakeholders in an extensive and exhaustive way, at all stages of drafing legislation and all other important initiatives that will have an impact to the trade community.

I also have the intention to pursue the dialogue with traders and customs administrations on the implementing actions of the paperless environment for customs and trade initiative.

I would like to add, as a response to the introductory comment made by Mr Snodijk yesterday, that the Commission has no intention to make the modernised Customs Code applicable before its implementing provisions are finalised and adopted.

With your support, I believe this Conference today maps out the route to take us to our target.

The Modernised Customs Code should increase efficiency and equity in customs services. If this is shown, citizens and companies will be convinced as well and become committed, co-operative and compliant.

I thank you for your time, effort, energy and attention !

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