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European Commission

Algirdas Šemeta

Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs Union, Statistics, Audit and Anti-fraud

Presentation of the Blue Belt Package

Press conference/Brussels, 8 July 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Siim has just outlined, today we are presenting measures to extend the Single Market to the sea.

The Blue Belt will put shipping on a level-playing field with other forms of transport, reduce costs and administration, and facilitate trade.

It will also enhance the situation for Customs, by simplifying procedures and enabling them to focus more on areas of real risk.

From a Customs point of view, maritime transport is one that requires a particular approach.

For a start, each ship carries huge volumes of goods to be cleared.

To give you an idea of what we are talking about, in 2011, EU customs handled more than 1.7 billion tons of merchandise travelling by sea.

Moreover, vessels nearly always leave the EU territory, even in voyages between EU ports. This places them outside the direct surveillance of authorities, and therefore more exposed to risk.

In 2011, maritime transport also accounted for the highest volume of illegal goods – 810 million illicit cigarettes and 70 million counterfeit products were seized, for example.

So we are faced with a dual challenge.

On one hand, we want to facilitate trade in this important sector, by easing and speeding up customs procedures.

On the other hand, Customs must be able to still ensure that EU citizens and businesses are protected against illegal goods entering our Single Market.

The Blue Belt will help us rise to these challenges.

It will make customs formalities for intra-EU shipping shorter, cheaper and more flexible, by upgrading the Regular Shipping Services procedure.

And the harmonised eManifest will facilitate more efficient checks on ships that leave the EU territory in their journeys, by enabling Customs to distinguish between EU and international goods.

This saves time and money for businesses. And it facilitates the work of Customs, by freeing up time and resources needed to collect duties and better target risks.

All in all, the Blue Belt project is one that very much reflects our European agenda for more growth and competitiveness.

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