European Union

Customs

The EU customs union in action

The EU Customs Union, established in 1968, makes it easier for EU companies to trade, harmonises customs duties on goods from outside the EU and helps to protect Europe’s citizens, animals and the environment.

In practice, the Customs Union means that the customs authorities of all 28 EU countries work together as if they were one. They apply the same tariffs to goods imported into their territory from the rest of the world, and apply no tariffs internally.

In the case of the EU, this means that there are no customs duties to be paid when goods are transported from one EU country to another. The customs duty from goods imported into the EU makes up around 14% of the total EU budget as part of its ‘traditional own resources.’

Customs controls at the EU’s external borders protect consumers from goods and products which could be dangerous or bad for their health. They protect animals and the environment by fighting illicit trade in endangered species and by preventing plant and animal diseases.

Customs authorities work together with policy and immigration services in the fight against organised crime and terrorism. They combat trafficking of people, drugs, weapons and counterfeited goods, and verify that travellers with large amounts of cash are not laundering money, evading tax or even financing criminal organisations.

EU customs also tackle tax and duties fraud by businesses and individuals, which deprive national governments of vital revenues for public spending.

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