The EU Single Window Environment for Customs is an opportunity to revise, revitalise and streamline existing customs procedures, believes Ivan Štefanec

IMCO Committee sought to provide a centralised solution and single-entry point for customs and non-customs declarations and to reduce administrative burdens, says rapporteur
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By Ivan Štefanec

Ivan Štefanec (SI, EPP) is a member of Parliament’s IMCO Committee and President of the EPP’s SME Europe group

14 Oct 2021

Customs union is a core element of a properly functioning internal market. The role of customs includes the enforcement of more than 60 EU non-customs legal acts at the external borders of the EU. These cover specific policies across a range of areas, including health and safety, environmental protection, fisheries and agriculture, market surveillance and product compliance, cultural heritage, and more.

These pieces of legislation generate an estimated 39.7 million customs declarations each year. Therefore, this generates burdensome reporting obligations for traders that - in most cases - require additional documentation over and above the basic customs declaration.

Late last month, the Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee unanimously approved its position considering a new Regulation on the Customs Single Window Environment.

“The European Parliament position addressed several goals and sought to provide a centralised solution and single-entry point for customs and non-customs declarations and to reduce the existing administrative burden” 

The objective was to establish a universal digital solution for the exchange of electronic information between customs and other governmental authorities and economic operators. This Regulation would provide a legal basis for a modern and electronic customs environment, ensuring security and safety.

The European Parliament position addressed several goals and sought to provide a centralised solution and single-entry point for customs and non-customs declarations and to reduce the existing administrative burden. It would also create a unique framework for cooperation between EU Member States and the European Commission, and would ensure that all economic operators were treated equally in the fight against fraudulent activities. In addition, it would deliver a digitally secure and safe environment for the exchange of data within and between Member States.

In 2015, the pilot project for creating a Single Window for Customs was initiated with nine EU Member States who voluntarily agreed to exchange information on eight non-customs procedures. Based on its success, the European Commission made a legislative proposal to extend this pilot to all Member States. However, we wanted to demonstrate greater ambition, as there are 52 another non-customs procedures still to be covered. 

So, for that reason we extended Annex I, proposing a Part B setting out nine non-customs procedures that may be used on a voluntary basis, and which should be connected to the Customs Single Window by 2023. This frees up countries that are ready to initiate its implementation. In addition, we created a part C of Annex I, where we listed all other non-customs procedures that are still processed non-electronically.

To complement this, we also included a provision in the text obliging the Commission to proactively monitor the situation in each Members State. As soon as it is technically and legislatively possible, the Commission should then move the non-custom procedure into the mandatory list of Annex I, via the delegated act.

The interoperability of existing IT systems is vital to a well-functioning customs ecosystem. A national Single Window for customs should be based on common data sets for all applications, declarations and notifications; this should help create interoperable common IT interface solutions, allowing economic operators to submit the relevant information in a standardised manner and through a single point of entry.

In its proposal, the European Commission foresees a National Coordinator function. We have extended this idea and have proposed a working group consisting of representatives from the Commission and National Member State Coordinators.

“The role of customs includes the enforcement of more than 60 EU non-customs legal acts at the external borders of the EU” 

This working group should act as a forum to discuss, at a technical level, progress in the implementation of national Single Window environments for customs. It would also propose additional customs and non-customs systems to be added to the Single Window environment. The meetings should be led by the European Commission and held regularly, a minimum of twice yearly.

The Commission should review progress of the implementation of the Regulation at least once every three years. However, it should also review the non-customs procedures to potentially link these to the Single Window.

We believe that is important to suggest that Member States use aggregated non-personal data that is gathered through national Single Window s and CERTEX and share it with software or equipment developers or producers to improve the effectiveness of the customs authorities. We also emphasised the need for high levels of cybersecurity for the entire Customs Single Window system.

And finally, we proposed to accelerate the date of entry into force of the Regulation from 2031 to 2028. We believe that this Regulation provides an ideal opportunity to resolve the issue of the legal bases for the Customs Single Window. As it currently stands, these are still based on the old, pre-Lisbon Commission decision. The Regulation can provide a basic framework for a paperless environment for customs and trade, setting out the objectives, as well as the structure, means and major deadlines. 

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