Customs: Boosting EU competitiveness, protecting EU citizens in the 21st century

Brussels, 27-12-2012 — / — Today the European Commission adopted a Communication on the State of Customs Union. The Communication takes stock of the current state of the EU customs union, identifies the challenges that it currently faces, and sets out priority actions for ensuring its future evolution. The aim is to ensure that the EU customs union is as modern, effective and efficient as possible in the coming years, to continue its work in ensuring a safe and competitive Europe.

Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs Union, Anti-Fraud and Audit, said:

“The customs union is the stone foundation of the European Union for over 4 decades, and a reliable guardian of the Internal Market. Today, as we strive to boost the EU’s competitiveness, while warding off new risks to our safety and security, the services that EU customs provide are more important than ever. The protection of our citizens, the prosperity of our businesses and the promotion of EU trade depend on top-class services provided by a seamlessly functioning customs union. That is what we intend to deliver.”

Every year, EU customs process 2 billion tonnes of goods worth €3 300 billion euros, and collect €16.6 billion in customs duties. Yet, EU customs today are far more than just revenue collectors. Over the past 4 decades, the customs union has evolved into a multi-functional service provider, delivering both for businesses and for society as a whole. Customs not only ensure smooth trade flows and protect against security risks; they also help to enforce other policies such as public health, consumer protection, intellectual property rights, environment and agriculture.

A growing set of responsibilities and intensifying global challenges such as greater trade flows, increasingly complex supply chains, an ever faster pace of business and the globalisation of terrorist risks have put a mounting strain on customs. Meanwhile, the economic crisis has squeezed public resources available to perform these tasks. The customs union must do increasingly more with increasingly less.

Therefore, today’s Communication sets out a course of action to modernise, strengthen and rationalise the customs union in the years ahead.

First, the modernisation of the customs union, which was started in 2003, must be completed as a priority. The Commission calls on the Council and Parliament to adopt and implement the Union Customs Code, which will make procedures simpler, more efficient and better fitted for modern trade needs.

Second, work to address identified gaps must be accelerated. In January 2013, the Commission will publish a Communication outlining how to improve customs risk management and security of the supply chain. Other measures foreseen for 2013 include a proposal on approximation of customs penalties, a review of tariff suspensions/quota rules, implementing a crisis management action plan and developing a toolbox of procedures to improve the efficiency of customs in enforcing health, safety and environment rules.

Finally, a review of governance of how the customs union functions internally will be initiated. The review, to be undertaken in close collaboration with Member States, should address how to work better together, in a more harmonised way, to provide high quality customs services and improve resource efficiency across the EU.

The Communication on the State of the Customs Union can be found on:

The video can be found on:

For Commissioner Semeta’s website see:

Contacts :

Emer Traynor (+32 2 292 15 48)

Natasja Bohez Rubiano (+32 2 296 64 70)



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