EU must 'streamline and modernise' its customs procedures

Bringing the EU's customs procedures up to speed means meeting the double challenge of improving the effectiveness of border operations, while increasing economic competitiveness, writes Constance Le Grip.

My first major legislative report on recasting the union's customs code was finally adopted on 11 September 2013, in Strasburg, at a plenary session of the European parliament, marking the end of an 18-month long legislative and negotiation process.

I am delighted with this outcome, thanks to which national customs authorities will have the means at their disposal to drag European customs fully into the 21st century.

The approach adopted, on the subject of which almost all my internal market and consumer protection committee colleagues agreed with me, consisted, above all, of enabling customs departments to equip themselves with technical and legal resources in line with the prodigious development of new technologies over the last 20 or so years.

Our world has changed significantly over this period of time. New challenges have emerged alongside huge scientific and technical progress: health and ecological risks, forgery and smuggling, dumping, while, at the same time, there has been an explosion of new digital technologies. It is vital that we Europeans are better armed in order to face up to increasing globalisation.

The challenge is a double one: to ensure that border control procedures are more effective and operational, in order to protect our economies, our citizens, our consumers and our producers, while, simultaneously, ensuring greater competitive gains by adopting more streamlined procedures which are both more reliable and faster.

"Member states will be required to dematerialise their business with economic operators and develop the appropriate IT systems needed for data exchange within the European customs territory"

Overall, the union's customs code reform rests on two basic tenets. The first consists of introducing a paperless customs environment. Indeed, until now, it has been possible to offer economic operators the possibility of executing customs procedures electronically according to the possibilities available in member states. From now on, member states will be required to dematerialise their business with economic operators and develop the appropriate IT systems needed for data exchange within the European customs territory.

The second tenet is the development of the benefits linked to the status of authorised economic operators, particularly via the introduction of measures, such as centralised customs clearance. What this means in actual terms is that companies acquiring this status, by virtue of which their diligence in applying legislation and their reliability, would be recognised and could declare all their operations through a single customs office for the entire European Union, regardless of the point of entry of the goods within the customs territory.

In conclusion, I would like to stress that, over and above the objective of modernising and streamlining customs procedures in Europe, our desire has been to adapt these procedures to international standards as defined by the world customs organisation. This is a vital issue since the EU has a leading role to play with its principal trading partners for the development and better management of goods flows on a global scale.

Read the most recent articles written by Constance Le Grip MEP - Parliament plays central role in modernising EU customs union

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