Ref. :  000029780
Date :  2008-07-01
Language :  English
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1968-2008: 4 decades of customs union

The 1st of July marks 40 years since customs barriers fell across the 6 members of the then EEC. The black and white picture - which was taken on the Belgian border - shows that moving goods around could be a slow process. Customs control at the EU's external borders has allowed its internal market of goods, people and services to develop. Today, the main goal is to protect people against terrorism and organised crime, unhealthy foods and dangerous products like counterfeit medicines.


The amount of transactions customs officers deal with is immense. Last year 183 million customs declarations were processed and 43,000 cases of fake goods seized. In addition to this import duties levied by customs for goods imported to the EU were €15 billion last year.

There is no EU customs service but 27 working on the basis of the "Community Customs code". New methods are constantly being adopted to deal with a global trade. These include customs that are more up to date and "friendlier" for consumers and businesses. So-called "E-customs" (using electronic technology) paperless customs and an updated Community Customs code are just some of these.

European Parliament and the customs union

Parliament's Internal Market Committee - under its Chair, British Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy - has supported the role the customs union plays. On 19 June they introduced a resolution which was passed by fellow MEPs in Strasbourg.

It calls for;

* More cooperation between national customs authorities in the EU and International ones.
* Investment in new technologies and methods.
* Action to cut red tape.
* A proper balance between trade and security.
* It voices opposition to US plans for the 100% scanning of containers from foreign ports as it believes this will not improve Europe's security.

In February this year Members voted to support a report by French Liberal MEP Janelly Fourtou on modernising the customs code. In December last year backed report calling for paperless customs by British Conservative Chris Heaton-Harris.

Not just customs

It is also known that customs procedures can have a spin-off in helping implement other EU policies. For example trade policy requires a common customs tariff and measures such as the customs value and the origin of goods.

Also, in development policy economic cooperation is built around the system of trade preferences which are based around a common customs tariff.

This year sees a series of events organised by the European Commission and the French Presidency to mark the anniversary and draw attention to new challenges. For more on this see the first link below.


Further information :

40 years of customs union
Internal Market Committee


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