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EC Moves Forward On Pan-European Electronic Customs System

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

10 May 2007

The European Commission has welcomed the progress made by the European Council of Ministers this week to reach a political agreement on the implementation of a pan-European electronic customs system.

While all Member States have electronic customs systems, they are, in general, not inter-connected.

The proposal for a Decision promoting the European electronic customs initiative contains actions and deadlines for making Member States' electronic customs systems compatible with each other, and creating a single, shared computer portal. Electronic declarations would become compulsory, with paper-based declarations becoming the exception.

After long discussions, Member States have agreed on the next steps towards a paper free environment for customs.

According to the EC, Member States and the Commission favour a step-by-step approach where electronic systems will be implemented in several phases.

The major projects making up the electronic customs initiative include:

  • The Automated Import System and Automated Export System together with the existing New Computerised Transit System aim to ease the customs procedures (export, import and transport), avoiding duplication at the EU level. They would ensure that import/export operations started in one Member State can be completed in another Member State without re-submission of the same information.
  • The EU Customs Portal, Single Electronic Access Point and Single Window would allow traders to deal with one body instead of several frontier control authorities as happens at present. Information relating to any given import consignment would then only have to be sent once. The One-Stop Shop system would then allow goods to be controlled by customs and other authorities (e.g. veterinary, sanitary and environmental authorities or even police and border guards) at the same time and at the same place.
  • The Economic Operators Registration and Identification, together with Authorised Economic Operator system, would allow business to have a unique system of identification in the EU for customs purposes (and whenever possible linked or shared with other existing identification systems) and would give reliable businesses a chance to benefit from the recognition of all the authorisations granted to the economic operators EU-wide.

The compromise agreement now needs to be confirmed by the European Parliament in a second reading which is expected to take place in the next few months.

"I am very pleased we could reach an agreement in the Council, thanks to the Finnish and German Presidencies' efforts undertaken in the discussions. I now encourage the European Parliament to start a second reading as soon as possible in order to reach rapidly a final decision." announced László Kovács, Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs.

He added:

"The commitment made by the Commission and the Member States paves the way to a paper free environment for customs which will facilitate communications between traders and customs and allow for faster and better exchange of information between European customs authorities. A pan-European electronic customs will increase the competitiveness of companies doing business in Europe, reduce compliance costs and improve security at the EU borders."

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