Parliament plays central role in modernising EU customs union

European parliament aiming for 'strong, effective customs policy' that can serve both companies and consumers, says Constance Le Grip.

By Constance Le Grip MEP

03 Apr 2014

The European parliament has made fundamental steps towards further entrenching and modernising the EU's customs union. Notably, in plenary sessions during the course of 2013, we adopted an amendment to the union's customs code following negotiations with the council which I was able to lead on behalf of the parliament as a rapporteur.

It is in this context that I welcome the proposal made by the European commission late last year on the adoption of a directive on a legal framework for customs infringements and penalties. The efforts, which were made within the framework of the customs code and in general on the legislative front with the aim of giving the customs union greater coherence and credibility, require a parallel approach working to implement the customs legislation.

"I welcome the proposal made by the European commission late last year on the adoption of a directive on a legal framework for customs infringements and penalties"

Indeed, the disparities which can currently be observed in terms of infringements and customs sanctions systems are very significant. This poses a problem in terms of legibility for economic operators, especially for small and medium enterprises. The customs code also invites national customs authorities to increase cooperation and exchange among one another, notably to work on attributing the benefits and on the option offered to certain operators of using simplified procedures such as centralised customs clearance.

Bringing together the legislative standards on customs issues and those of the practices implemented in a concrete manner on the ground by different national authorities are two sides of a single coin. It is not acceptable that differences in how the rights and obligations of the code are applied lead to distortions in competition between economic operators.

It is in this spirit that, in line with the work done on the customs code, I wanted to make this fundamental issue the vision of parliament's internal market and consumer protection (IMCO) committee in the current term. Indeed, I had the opportunity to be nominated co-rapporteur for this issue alongside my German Socialist colleague Evelyne Gebhardt. However, unfortunately our parliamentary committee did not have the material resources to tackle this issue for a first reading by the end of this term.

We therefore worked in an environment of trust and cooperation to define a clear political message through a resolution supported by all of the political groups and passed by the IMCO committee, and we hope to see it adopted at parliament's final plenary session in April. This resolution has echoes of when we were all asked to address universal suffrage last May.

In our resolution, we did not want to go into any of the details, particularly the technical details, of the text, but rather to highlight our interest in seeing a strong, effective customs policy developed to serve the internal market, its companies and its consumers. We wanted to express our support for the proposal presented by the commission, which must, however, be respectful of the rights of the member states, particularly in criminal cases, and must be coherent with the EU's strategy on the fight against fraud.

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