Procedure : 2011/2083(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0406/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0406/2011

Debates :

Votes :

PV 01/12/2011 - 6.28
CRE 01/12/2011 - 6.28
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0546

REPORT     
PDF 261kWORD 176k
25 November 2011
PE 470.029v02-00 A7-0406/2011

on modernisation of customs

(2011/2083(INI))

Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

Rapporteur: Matteo Salvini

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION of the Committee on International Trade
 OPINION of the Committee on Budgetary Control
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on modernisation of customs

(2011/2083(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Regulation (EC) No 450/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 laying down the Community Customs Code (Modernised Customs Code)(1),

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 of 12 October 1992 establishing the Community Customs Code(2),

–   having regard to Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 of 2 July 1993 laying down provisions for the implementation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 establishing the Community Customs Code(3),

–   having regard to Decision No 70/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2008 on a paperless environment for customs and trade(4),

–   having regard to Decision No 624/2007/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 May 2007 establishing an action programme for customs in the Community (Customs 2013)(5),

–   having regard to Regulation (EC) No 648/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 April 2005 amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 establishing the Community Customs Code(6) (Security and Safety Amendment),

–   having regard to Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 339/93(7),

–   having regard to Council Decision No 2007/668/EC of 25 June 2007 on the exercise of rights and obligations akin to membership ad interim by the European Community in the World Customs Organization(8),

–   having regard to the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks related to the protection of intellectual property rights, including the assembling of public and private sector representatives as a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy (COM(2011)0288),

–   having regard to the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights (COM(2011)0285),

–   having regard to the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission(9),

–   having regard to its resolution of 10 May 2011 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the 2009 Commission discharge(10),

–   having regard to its resolution of 8 March 2011 on the revision of the General Product Safety Directive and market surveillance(11),

–   having regard to its resolution of 19 June 2008 on the fortieth anniversary of the Customs Union(12),

–   having regard to its resolution of 5 June 2008 on implementing trade policy through efficient import and export rules and procedures(13),

–   having regard to the report of its Committee of Inquiry into the Community Transit System (January 1996 – March 1997),

–   having regard to the European Court of Auditors Special Report 1/2010: ‘Are simplified customs procedures for imports effectively controlled?’,

–   having regard to the Agreement between the European Community and the United States of America on customs cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters(14), signed on 28 May 1997,

–   having regard to the Joint Statement on Supply Chain Security (US Department of Homeland Security and European Commission), signed on 23 June 2011,

–   having regard to the Report on the EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights: Results at the EU border – 2010, European Commission – Taxation and Customs Union,

–   having regard to the report from the Commission entitled ‘Midterm evaluation of the Customs 2013 programme’(COM(2011)0537),

–   having regard to the report from the Commission entitled ‘Final evaluation of the Customs 2007 programme in accordance with Article 19 of Decision 253/2003/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 6 February 2003 adopting an action programme for customs in the Community (Customs 2007)’ (COM(2008)0612),

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission entitled ‘Strategy for the evolution of the Customs Union’ (COM(2008)0169),

–   having regard to the communication from the Commission ‘on a Customs response to latest trends in counterfeiting and piracy’ (COM(2005)0479),

–   having regard to the progress report regarding strengthening air cargo security (Council document 11250/11),

–   having regard to the EU Customs Action Plan to Combat IPR Infringements 2009-2012 (Council document 5345/09),

–   having regard to the Council Resolution of 23 October 2009 on a reinforced strategy for customs cooperation(15),

–   having regard to the Council conclusions of 14 May 2008 on the strategy for the evolution of the Customs Union,

–   having regard to the hearing on ‘Modernised Customs and Internal Market’ held on 16 July 2011,

–   having regard to the study commissioned by its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs entitled ‘Customs Cooperation in the Area of Freedom, Security, and Justice: the role of customs in the management of the external border of the EU’, published in May 2011,

–   having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the opinions of the Committee on International Trade and the Committee on Budgetary Control (A7-0406/2011),

A. whereas an efficient Customs Union is one of the essential cornerstones of the European integration process and a basis for the free movement of goods, economic development and growth in the internal market;

B.  whereas customs has a crucial role in guaranteeing safety and security, protecting consumers and the environment, ensuring complete revenue collection, strengthening the fight against fraud and corruption, and ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights;

C. whereas customs, being conveniently located at the border, can efficiently contribute to ensuring that only safe goods enter the EU;

D. whereas customs still play an important role in safeguarding the EU’s financial interests even though the role of collection of customs duties has been declining over recent years;

E.  whereas very recent air cargo security incidents prove that the focus on security is appropriate and that customs administrations have to remain vigilant to threats of terrorism;

F.  whereas the importation into the EU of counterfeit and pirated goods leads to a loss in revenue and violates intellectual property rights; whereas counterfeit products can pose serious risks to the safety and health of European consumers;

G. whereas customs today face increasing volumes of import, export and transit transactions while resources remain limited, and efficient and effective risk management is therefore of particular importance;

H  whereas e-customs, in particular centralised customs clearance, is one of the main aspects of customs modernisation and simplification;

I.   whereas a smooth, simple and well functioning customs system is essential to facilitate mobility of goods, and trade on the internal market, especially for SMEs;

J.   whereas it is crucial to strike an appropriate balance between customs controls and facilitation of legitimate trade; whereas ‘authorised economic operator’ status should offer tangible benefits to trusted traders;

Customs strategy

1.  Considers that the Modernised Customs Code which was adopted in 2008 was highly ambitious in terms of deadlines, and takes the view that the new proposal must truly aim to enhance the current situation, bringing clear added value for EU operators and SMEs in particular;

2.  Is convinced that modernisation of the EU’s customs strategy and customs instruments should be a high political priority with a budget to match this ambition, as a future-proof policy on well functioning, efficient and simplified customs procedures is essential in contributing to global EU economic competitiveness and reliable trade relations with third countries;

3.  Stresses the fact that a well functioning customs policy plays a key role in protecting intellectual property rights, combating the illegal entry of goods and counterfeit products into the single market, and therefore enhances safety and security for European consumers;

4.  Calls for the fight against breaches of customs regulations and against threats posed by smuggling, organised crime, corruption, terrorism and other criminal acts to be intensified, paying particular attention to implementing the recommendations of the World Customs Organization on risk management, the protection and security of legal trade, development partnerships with business in the area of customs automation, on the fight against corruption, the introduction of the single window principle and the exchange of information and knowledge between customs administrations;

5.  Believes that the mission and image of customs should be adapted to the Modernised Customs Code requirements in order to be given additional stimulus and be able to reach the full potential of its effectiveness;

6.  Considers that, as customs are entrusted with more and more responsibilities, the Member States should match these with adequate resources; considers that allocation of appropriate financial resources in line with the budgetary frameworks for customs-related procedures and processes, in particular the development of IT systems, is essential for achieving the much needed modernisation of customs; believes that, in order to enable customs to perform its priority tasks, particular emphasis should be placed on the use of the available, limited resources in the area of risk management, on guaranteeing the protection and security of the market and society and on border protection at the EU’s external borders;

7.  Is concerned that different national interpretations of the EU customs legislation create red tape for business, with a consequential negative impact on European competitiveness, and weaken the EU’s ability to administer an efficient risk-based approach to compliance; therefore calls on the Member States to commit fully to the process of modernisation of customs and especially to the uniform application of EU customs legislation; insists moreover that the Commission, without delay, takes all necessary actions to ensure a seamless and harmonised application of the EU customs legislation throughout the EU;

8.  Calls on the Commission to provide by June 2012 a report to the European Parliament on the current status of compliance by the Member States with the EU customs legislation, including an action plan to address any shortcomings identified; considers that the industry should be consulted by the Commission when performing this task;

9.  Notes that customs administrations must be modernised by creating a results-oriented administrative system, implementing quality management methods based on international standards and tried-and-tested procedures, and improving the internal monitoring system and management of organisational risk, taking account of operational and information processes;

10. Acknowledges that customs are of vital importance to international trade; appreciates, in this regard, the regulatory role of the WTO agreement on customs valuation that aims for a fair, uniform and neutral system for the valuation of goods for customs purposes, outlawing the use of arbitrary or fictitious customs values that can constitute a barrier to open and fair trade;

11. Believes there is a need for modernisation measures such as simpler customs legislation and interoperable computerised customs systems which will help facilitate commercial practices, and that they should be introduced as quickly as possible, as well as a need for greater coordination of prevention and prosecution activities by the tax police at European level; expresses the wish for the work in progress on updating the Customs Code to stress the central role of eliminating customs declarations in order to facilitate trade;

Ensuring competitiveness and risk management

12. Is of the opinion that, in order to increase European economic competitiveness, simplification, standardisation and modernisation of customs legislation and procedures and the use of modern and efficient IT tools are paramount; considers that one of the major achievements of modernised customs is predictability for business, especially for SMEs, which in turn stimulates economic growth;

13. Notes that considerable investments may be needed to adapt to new customs procedures and modernised e-customs requirements; stresses that these must be reasonable, so as not to create unnecessary burdens especially on SMEs; stresses the need to alleviate bureaucracy and costs for SMEs;

14. Considers that customs controls should primarily target high-risk consignments, whereas low-risk consignments should be speedily released for free circulation; emphasises in that regard the crucial role of risk management techniques and strongly supports the introduction and further modernisation of electronic customs clearance systems;

15. Considers that effective risk management is dependent upon timely collection of appropriate information throughout the electronic processing, ensuring safety and public security;

16. Insists that any future extension of supply chain security legislation within the EU must follow a fully risk-based approach, targeting only higher-risk consignments for both documentary and physical evaluation;

17. Identifies the need, in a functional EU of 27 Member States, to define a common set of mandatory physical checks on goods applicable to all the different points of entry (ports, airports, roads) to the single market;

18. While recognising the importance of supply chain security, considers that the US legislative requirement of 100% scanning is overly burdensome and excessively costly, while actual benefits are doubtful, and is determined to continue the transatlantic legislative dialogue with the US in order to achieve the repeal or amendment of this legislation;

Modernised customs

Implementation of the Modernised Customs Code (MCC)

19. Emphasises that the MCC is an important tool to streamline and truly harmonise customs procedures in order to contribute to the strengthening of the European economy; considers that the provisions implementing the MCC should fully reflect its spirit; is concerned that some essential implementing provisions are still under consideration and strategic decisions with regard to the IT architecture have not yet been taken;

20. Is convinced that the MCC can reach its full potential only if fully supported by properly developed and advanced IT systems; strongly believes that any further investments in IT should be guided by the core principles of the MCC;

21. Highlights the need for trade to have access to proper specifications by the Member States well in advance, as businesses also need time to develop and implement their own IT applications; stresses, in this regard, that the technical and financial capabilities of national administrations and economic operators in deploying new systems must be taken into account in setting the new deadline for the application of the MCC;

22. Welcomes the envisaged alignment of provisions of the MCC with the Treaty of Lisbon in terms of delegation of powers and granting of implementing powers; underlines that this new system is representative of a newly established balance between the European Parliament and the Council, especially as, with regard to delegated acts, the two institutions are placed on an equal footing;

23. Recognises that the postponement of the application of the MCC is appropriate; calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the Member States and taking into account the difficulties experienced, mainly in relation to the development of IT systems, to explore the possibilities of considering 2016 as a new deadline for the uniform implementation of the MCC – directly linking such a postponement to the necessary safety guarantees;

Centralised customs clearance and harmonisation

24. Stresses the need for consistency in the management of the EU’s external borders; reiterates its call on the Commission and the Member States to step up harmonisation of customs control systems on the one hand, and sanctions on the other hand;

25. Strongly supports the concept of centralised clearance depending utterly on the appropriate IT systems, which is one of the principal aspects of modernised customs as conceived in the MCC, and regrets the lack of progress in the implementation of this concept; underlines the central role that customs should have in the centralised clearance procedure;

26. Calls on the Member States to commit themselves fully to the concept of centralised clearance, as only truly harmonised customs rules, information exchange systems and data formats can ensure its successful implementation;

27. Finds it regrettable that the pace of development is slow in the process of simplification of VAT and excise rules in the Member States, and that problems are arising in the collection of VAT and excise duties, these areas being crucial to a truly centralised clearance system; calls too for increased cooperation and exchange of best practice in relation to the collection of VAT on imported goods, the opening hours of customs services, and fees and penalties for non-compliance with the Community Customs Code, as existing differences are resulting in trade distortions;

28 Considers that there needs to be some flexibility with regard to rules and customs processes, in order to enable the Member States to continue, where possible, to tailor their approach in relation to logistical speed, complexity and volume of goods handled;

Authorised economic operator (AEO) status

29. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve service quality in relation to economic operators and other persons and to reduce the administrative burdens on them; supports the Commission’s efforts to encourage traders across the EU to apply for AEO status; is concerned, however, that considerable investments necessary to obtain AEO status might be a serious obstacle for traders, especially SMEs; calls on the Commission to consider simplifying the procedure for applying for AEO status;

30. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to propose additional concrete benefits which could be granted to traders holding AEO certificates and which would encourage businesses to apply; believes that such tangible benefits could primarily entail significant reductions in administrative burdens or costs, for example by relieving AEOs, as a rule, from the requirement to lodge a security of customs debt, and facilitating the payment of customs duties and VAT;

31. In particular, calls on the Commission to look into dispensing with pre-arrival and pre-departure notifications for both imports and exports in the case of especially trusted operators such as AEOs and, accordingly, to enable transaction-based customs declarations to be dispensed with in the context of self-assessment and the local clearance procedure;

32. Draws attention, nevertheless to all the necessary prerequisites for the acquisition of AEO status as set out in Article 14 of the MCC: namely compliance with customs and tax requirements; the existence of a satisfactory system of managing commercial and, where appropriate, transport records, allowing appropriate customs controls; proven financial solvency; practical standards of competence or professional qualifications directly related to the activity carried out; and safety and security standards;

33. Expects all the Member States to ensure that the AEO status granted by one Member State is fully recognised by the other Member States;reiterates the importance of ensuring equal treatment for AEOs throughout the Community customs territory as regards uniformity of the controls and mutual recognition;

34. Calls on the Commission to include in the MCC more rigorous requirements for the provision of the EU’s customs representation services, helping to increase the level of professionalism and ownership on the part of these intermediaries and laying down clear rules to guide relations between customs agents and forwarding undertakings, so as to change the role of the agents to that of consolidators for small and medium-sized importers that do not have the capacity to implement customs compliance programmes similar to those of European AEOs;

35. Welcomes the activation of the cooperation agreement between the EU and Japan on the mutual recognition of AEO status; encourages the Commission to negotiate similar agreements with other major partners, such as the USA, Canada, China and Russia, having full regard to the role of the European Parliament, and to include this element in the negotiation of bilateral trade agreements, in order to make AEO status more beneficial to EU companies;

Simplifications and exceptions

36. Welcomes the Commission’s intention to introduce procedural simplifications in the area of imports and exports;

37. Calls on the Commission in future, in the context of ‘local clearance procedures’, to dispense with individual notifications and to provide for goods to be released without the involvement of the customs authorities, in order to ensure that procedures operate smoothly, particularly in the case of just-in-time consignments;

38. Points out that, in a number of Member States, SMEs in particular use the option that is available under the Community Customs Code of ‘oral’ customs declarations for the import and export of consignments under the value of EUR 1 000;

39. Urges that the existing duty thresholds and derogations in respect of customs applications for the smallest consignments in import and export trade in many Member States be retained and standardised across the EU, for example up to an amount of EUR 1 000, and included in the area of pre-arrival and pre-departure notifications, as abolishing this simplified procedure would considerably increase the administrative and financial burdens on SMEs in particular, and would therefore be at odds with the Union’s aim of reducing red tape; insists that the option of ‘oral’ customs declarations should be retained in the implementing rules for the MCC;

40. Calls for maintenance of the existing provisions concerning sale for export and the inclusion of certain royalties and license fees in the customs value, as unwarranted changes to these provisions will result in a higher customs value and thus a higher tax burden;

Non-preferential origin

41. Calls on the Commission to maintain the principle that the non-preferential origin of goods is determined according to the place where their last substantial economically justified processing occurred;

42. Is concerned about the trend towards seeking to establish rules regarding non-preferential origin using different methods to determine origin for imports and exports;

43. Stresses that, if additional origin rules are established, this should be done in such a way as to avoid unnecessary administrative burdens for businesses, and should take into account the importance of facilitating international trade;

44. Stresses at the same time that export certificates on non-preferential origin issued by the relevant authorities of third countries must also in future be recognised by the EU;

45. Supports the implementation of list-based rules in the area of non-preferential origin only for special cases, which should be regarded as exceptions; calls for the established rules as currently laid down in Annexes 10 and 11 to the implementing provisions of the Community Customs Code to be retained and for there to be no further extension of list-based criteria to other products, so as to prevent what would be a clear increase in the administrative burden on customs authorities and economic operators without any compensatory economic benefits;

46. Calls for the ‘first sale’ rule to be retained and for the recording of costs in connection with risk analysis – which entails significant costs for operators – to be dropped; is concerned about proposals currently being discussed with regard to establishing a transaction value, as they do not comply with the requirement relating to sale for export to the customs territory of the Community, but rather represent a paradigm shift towards sale for import into the customs territory of the Community, which is not in accordance with the GATT Customs Valuation Code;

Customs’ role in ensuring product safety, protection of financial interests and protection of intellectual property rights

Product safety

47. Expects strong cooperation between customs administrations, market surveillance authorities and businesses, e.g. to intercept unsafe and/or non-compliant products at the border of the destination Member States; calls on the Commission and Member States to see to it that officers are properly trained so as to ensure even better detection of products presenting a risk;

48. Welcomes the progress made on drafting the guidelines for import controls in the area of product safety, and calls on the Commission to update them on an ongoing basis, monitor their implementation and keep the European Parliament informed of further developments in this area;

49. Calls on the Commission to consider establishing a public database to which Member States could submit information on dangerous goods intercepted as the result of customs control;

Financial interests

50. Underlines that the proceeds from customs duties are an important part of the EU’s traditional own resources, representing, together with sugar levies, EUR 16 777 100 000 for the year 2011, and that an efficient customs system is of primary importance when it comes to protecting the EU’s financial interests; stresses that the correct operation of customs has direct consequences in terms of the calculation of VAT, which is another important source of EU budget revenue;

51. Stresses that efficient prevention of irregularities and fraud in the customs field, through proper controls, not only secures the protection of the EU’s financial interests but also has important consequences for the internal market, eliminating the unfair advantage held by economic operators who underpay duties or understate the values declared to customs over honest and compliant economic operators who do not engage in such practices;

52. Continues to support Member States’ efforts to enhance tax and customs regulation and tax collection capacities, to reinforce international conventions against corruption, tax evasion and illegal flows, and to increase financial transparency; likewise supports increased exchanges of information on current customs legislation;

53. Recalls that the Commission’s objective is to make national customs administrations act as if they were one, ensuring controls with equivalent results at every point of the Union’s customs territory; points out that this cannot be achieved without interoperable communication and information-exchange systems at Member State and Commission level; deplores the very slow progress in this respect; points out that the controls must be based on mutually agreed standards and reliable risk-evaluation criteria with regard to the selection of goods and economic operators;

54. Calls for closer cooperation, and the active exchange of information and proven procedures, with the customs authorities of the EU’s neighbouring countries with regard to customs modernisation and efforts to combat smuggling and corruption in the customs system;

55. Welcomes the simplified customs control system that was introduced in 2009, and recognises its importance in facilitating international trade; stresses that the widespread use of simplified customs procedures for imports, which tend to reduce customs formalities and control before the release of goods, is one of the key elements of the EU’s customs policy; recalls that over 70% of all customs procedures have been simplified; finds it regrettable, however that those procedures have led to unjustified levels of loss to the EU budget and breaches of EU trade policy;

56. Notes with concern that the European Court of Auditors has revealed insufficient control and auditing of these simplified procedures in Member States; therefore emphasises the importance of suitable implementation of the control system in this regard, and encourages the Commission to follow this process closely in order to avoid losses to the EU budget as well as breaches of trade policy provisions;

57. Calls on the Commission, in order to reduce the risk of Traditional Own Resources (TOR) losses, to ensure that, at Member State level, proper system audits of operators are carried out prior to the issuing of authorisation to use simplified customs procedures, and that proper ex-post audits are conducted;

58. Recalls that customs control should be based on risk analysis using, inter alia, automated data-processing techniques, and points out that, in the European Court of Auditors’ view, only automated risk profiles integrated into the processing of customs declarations can sufficiently protect the EU’s financial and trade policy interests; deplores the fact that very few Member States have in place automated risk profiles for TOR and common trade policy issues; urges the Commission to take the necessary measures to address this situation;

59. Reiterates its position set out in the conclusions of Part III of its resolution of 10 May 2011 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the 2009 Commission discharge, concerning the Court’s special report entitled ‘Are simplified customs procedures for imports effectively controlled?’;

Intellectual property rights

60. Notes the recent Commission proposal for a draft regulation concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights, and firmly believes that customs can effectively contribute to the protection of intellectual property rights; stresses that the further developed regulation makes it possible to retain goods suspected of violating intellectual property law, and that the regulation thus comprises one pillar of the Union’s legal framework for the protection of intellectual property rights;

61. Supports the work carried out in the framework of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy and encourages full use of the Observatory’s potential; welcomes in that regard the recent Commission proposal for a draft regulation on entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks related to the protection of intellectual property rights;

Transparency

62. Encourages the Commission to adhere fully to the spirit of the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission in terms of improved cooperation and flow of information, especially in the context of Commission meetings with national experts;

63. Supports the Commission’s efforts to facilitate communication between traders and Member States; proposes, however, further improvements: in particular urges the Commission to publish all the relevant information and documentation on the meetings with national experts as soon as they are available in order to provide direct access to overviews, for trade representatives and any citizens concerned by developments in the area of customs, of the discussions carried out at those meetings; is convinced that this would, in particular, benefit SMEs, ensure transparency and raise public awareness of customs-related issues;

Cooperation

64. Believes that engagement between customs, market surveillance authorities and business is of the utmost importance and should be based on the principles of transparency, consistency, coherence and predictability, and considers that all parties should acknowledge and respect the needs, realities and expectations of the others and combine their knowledge, expertise in their respective fields and wide-ranging talents in order to achieve optimal performance and outcomes;

65. Considers that all Member States should have formal mechanisms in place for transparent dialogue between customs administrations and the private sector; calls on customs and the private sector to identify and promote best practices for cooperation, and encourages both parties to assess their cooperation and develop necessary evaluation tools in order to identify problems and offer possible solutions;

66. Considers that customs clearance has to be streamlined by involving all the relevant authorities at the earliest possible stage in the process; therefore strongly supports coordinated border management and the single window principle under customs responsibility, with the necessary legislative measures;

67. Emphasises that the one-stop-shop principle should be applied efficiently, ensuring that goods are inspected only once by all the authorities concerned;

68. Is of the opinion that the skills, knowledge and experience of customs professionals should be in constant development and improvement, as these are prerequisites for high quality customs procedures; supports the Member States and the Commission in their work on promoting regular training of customs officials;

69. Calls for the establishment of operational platforms common to the Member States and the Commission, and stresses the need to provide customs officers and economic operators with adequate training in order to ensure the uniform enforcement of EU rules and better protection for consumers;

70. Emphasises that research is of particular importance when considering legislative initiatives; welcomes and strongly supports the work carried out by universities and research centres across the EU contributing to the academic development of customs officials; encourages the Member States to ensure that relevant academic programmes are available to promote the excellence of the customs profession;

71. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to explore the possibilities of further increasing customs cooperation, including with the other relevant authorities, as well as the harmonisation of customs rules, in order to improve the functioning of the Customs Union; calls on the Commission to consider this issue in the follow-up to the Customs 2013 programme;

72. Believes that the follow-up to the Customs 2013 programme should, in particular, support uniform implementation of the EU customs legislation and a balanced approach to contributing to European competitiveness, while at the same time guaranteeing safety and security.

73. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve the organisation of customs procedures at the EU’s external borders, to create better conditions for legal business activity, international trade and swift movement of persons and goods, to overhaul the infrastructure at customs offices at the EU’s external borders, taking account of the implementing provisions of the Community Customs Code, to furnish customs offices with modern monitoring equipment and to ensure that these tools are used effectively in the carrying out of customs checks;

74. Emphasises the value of stepping up customs cooperation with Russia and the Eastern Partnership and Mediterranean Partnership countries in order to facilitate international trade and combat customs fraud and counterfeiting;

75. Encourages the Commission to develop multilateral cooperation and coordination plans within the WCO, in order to lay down joint standards and rules that will improve the security and effectiveness of customs and border procedures and reduce costs through the sharing of standards and the exchange of good practice;

76. Believes that an agreement on trade facilitation as part of the Doha Round would benefit the member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO), notably by strengthening legal certainty and reducing commercial costs; thus encourages the Commission, for its part, to push forward the conclusion of this agreement with a view to the ministerial conference due to take place on 15-17 December 2011 in Geneva;

77. Stresses the importance of ensuring that legitimate customs checks carried out by third countries are not, in certain circumstances, misused to create new, de facto non-tariff barriers to goods originating from the EU;

°

°    °

78. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1)

              OJ L 145, 4.6.2008, p. 1.

(2)

              OJ L 302, 19.10.1992, p. 1.

(3)

              OJ L 253, 11.10.1993, p. 1.

(4)

              OJ L 23, 26.1.2008, p. 21.

(5)

              OJ L 154, 14.6.2007, p. 25.

(6)

              OJ L 117, 4.5.2005, p. 13.

(7)

             OJ L 218, 13.8.2008, p. 30

(8)

              OJ L 274, 18.10.2007, p. 11.

(9)

              OJ L 304, 20.11.2010, p. 47.

(10)

            OJ L 250, 27.9.2011, p. 63.

(11)

            Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0076.

(12)

            OJ C 286 E, 27.11.2009, p. 20.

(13)

            OJ C 285 E, 26.11.2009, p. 1.

(14)

            OJ L 222, 12.8.1997, p. 17.

(15)

            OJ C 260, 30.10.2009, p. 1.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

Introduction

European economic competitiveness is of paramount importance especially with a view to revitalising the internal market. Customs has a significant role to play in improving and influencing competitiveness as simplification of customs legislation and promotion of electronic customs stimulate economic growth. In order to play its role to the full extent customs has to be modern, cooperative, responsive and active.

Simultaneously customs plays an essential role in guaranteeing safety and security efficiently, protecting the intellectual property rights, contributing to the fight against fraud.

The Rapporteur strongly believes that the cooperation among various stakeholders and institutions in the area of customs (traders, customs authorities, other governmental agencies, the Commission and the European Parliament) is essential to guarantee that customs fulfil its mission as described above; in particular the Rapporteur strongly supports timely and transparent flow of information among all the parties involved.

Modernised Customs

The Modernised Customs Code (MCC) was adopted in 2008 in order to introduce a number of simplifications of customs procedures and harmonisation of EU customs rules that would help traders to do business more effectively and assist customs authorities so that they can carry out their work efficiently. The major innovations introduced by the MCC are the concepts of electronic customs, central clearance, single window, one-stop-shop.

However, the MCC is not applicable yet, as the implementing provisions first have to be adopted and enter into force. The deadline for the application of the MCC was set for 24 June 2013. However, currently there are clear indications that this deadline will not be respected. This is mainly because IT systems, in order to ensure that the MCC is workable in practice, have not yet been developed and/or implemented. In the Rapporteur’s opinion it seems to be inappropriate to have the MCC applicable without the support of the necessary IT systems. The Rapporteur also stresses that further developments in IT systems have to be considered in accordance with the spirit of the MCC.

Therefore, the Rapporteur finds it appropriate to postpone the application of the MCC, especially as a vast majority of Member States and trade representatives support this option. The Rapporteur believes that a delicate balance has to be ensured between the necessity to have the MCC applicable as soon as possible and the IT solutions available to ensure the complete application of the MCC. One of the options could be the extension of the deadline with the gradual application of certain provisions of the MCC commencing as soon as possible. This would ensure the possibility for traders and customs authorities to benefit from the advanced provisions of the MCC without unnecessary delay.

Centralised Customs Clearance and Harmonisation

The Rapporteur is convinced that it is necessary to promote the concept of ‘centralised customs clearance’ which enables the authorised traders to declare goods electronically and pay their customs duties at the place where they are established, irrespective of the Member State where the goods are imported or exported.

The Rapporteur believes that all 27 national customs administrations should work as they were one, ensuring throughout the EU uniform levels of controls and uniform treatment of traders.

Authorised Economic Operators

The Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status grants the trusted traders an easier access to simplifications of customs procedures and facilitations in terms of controls. The Rapporteur is however concerned about the lack of tangible benefits granted by the AEO status. Moreover, the large investments involved in obtaining the AEO status are a serious disincentive for traders, in particular the SMEs, to apply for it.

Risk Management

The Rapporteur emphasises that it is necessary to strike an appropriate balance between customs controls to ensure safety and security and smooth movements of legitimate goods. Hence the Rapporteur highlights the importance of risk management: ensuring that low-risk consignments are immediately released and customs authorities could concentrate their time and efforts on more complicated cases involving high-risk goods.

In this respect the Rapporteur also welcomes the fact that there are indications that the US would be moving away from the aim of scanning 100 % of US-bound container cargo and would rather choose a risk-based approach.

Customs controls in ensuring security

For a considerable time customs administrations have mainly been collectors of customs duties. However, after the abolishment of the internal borders within the EU this role has diminished and now it is mainly relevant at the external border of the EU. Nevertheless, while this role was declining another role played by customs – ensuring international supply chain security – was increasing gradually. As the latest incidents show (e.g. Yemen cartridge bomb (October 2010) and dirty bomb fears in Genoa (February 2011)) customs authorities have to remain vigilant as threats to security are imminent.

Product safety

The Rapporteur is persuaded that customs administrations are best placed to ensure that only safe goods and goods complying with EU harmonisation legislation and fulfilling documentation and marking requirements enter the EU. Therefore the Rapporteur trusts that there is a crucial role for customs to play in ensuring product safety. The latter point has also been highlighted in European Parliament resolution of 8 March 2011 on the revision of the General Product Safety Directive and market surveillance.

Protection of financial interests of the EU

It is also crucial to safeguard the financial interests of the EU and to prevent losses in revenue. Moreover, underpayment of customs duties and undervaluation of imported goods jeopardise the functioning of the internal market.

Protection of intellectual property rights

The Rapporteur welcomes recent Commission’s proposals for a draft regulation concerning customs enforcement of intellectual property rights and for a draft regulation on entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks related to the protection of intellectual property rights.

Cooperation

The Rapporteur stresses the need to ensure cooperation among customs authorities, as well as between customs authorities and traders, customs authorities and other governmental authorities and in that respect strongly supports the coordinated border management, single window principle, one-stop-shop concept and centralised customs clearance. The Rapporteur also proposes to establish European Customs Agency to deal with customs issues.


OPINION of the Committee on International Trade (21.10.2011)

for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

on the modernisation of customs

(2011/2083(INI))

Rapporteur: Cristiana Muscardini

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on International Trade calls on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

1.  Acknowledges that customs are of vital importance to international trade; appreciates, in this regard, the regulatory role of the WTO agreement on customs valuation that aims for a fair, uniform and neutral system for the valuation of goods for customs purposes, outlawing the use of arbitrary or fictitious customs values that can constitute a barrier to open and fair trade; stresses also that well functioning customs are essential to the competitiveness of the European Union as they play a unique role in combating the illegal import, export and transit of goods and counterfeited products, in protecting intellectual property rights, and in guaranteeing product safety;

2.  Calls on the Commission to maintain Article 24 of the Community Customs Code, so that the origin of goods continues to be determined according to the place where their last substantial economically justified processing occurred; at the same time stresses that export certificates on non-preferential origin of the relevant authorities of third countries must also in future be recognised by the EU; stresses that changes to the status quo would burden businesses with administrative procedures and undermine ongoing harmonisation efforts at WTO level;

3.  Believes there is a need for modernisation measures such as simpler customs legislation and interoperable computerised customs systems which will help facilitate commercial practices, and that they should be introduced as quickly as possible, as well as a need for greater coordination of prevention and prosecution activities by the tax police at European level; recalls that an oral customs declaration for goods of less than EUR 1 000, which is currently in place, constitutes an essential simplification of trade operations for many SMEs and should be maintained; expresses the wish for the work in progress on updating the Customs Code to stress the central role of eliminating customs declarations in order to facilitate trade;

4.  Welcomes the simplified customs control system that was introduced in 2009 and recognises its importance in facilitating international trade; notes with concern that the Court of Auditors has revealed an insufficient control and audit of these simplified procedures in Member States; therefore emphasises the importance of suitable implementation of this control system and encourages the Commission to closely follow this process in order to avoid losses to the EU budget as well as breaches of trade policy provisions;

5.  Identifies the need in a functional European Union of 27 Member States to define a common set of mandatory physical checks on goods applicable to all the different points of entry (ports, airports, roads) to the Union’s Single market; calls also for increased cooperation and exchange of best practices with respect to the collection of VAT on imported goods, in the opening hours of customs services, and in fees and penalties for non compliance with the Union’s custom code, as existing differences are resulting in trade distortions;

6.  Stresses the need for consistency in the management of the EU’s external borders; reiterates its call on the Commission and the Member States to step up harmonisation of customs control systems on the one hand, and sanctions on the other hand; calls for the establishment of operational platforms that are common to the Member States and the Commission and stresses the need to provide customs officers and economic operators with adequate training in order to ensure the uniform enforcement of EU rules and better protection for consumers;

7.  Reiterates the importance of ensuring equal treatment for authorised economic operators (AEO) throughout the Community customs territory as regards uniformity of the controls and mutual recognition;

8.  Calls on the Commission to include in the new customs code more rigorous requirements for the provision of the European Union’s customs representation services, helping to increase the level of professionalism and ownership on the part of these intermediaries and laying down clear rules to guide relations between customs agents and forwarding undertakings, so as to change the role of the agents to that of consolidators for small and medium-sized importers that do not have the capacity to implement customs compliance programmes similar to the European AEO;

9.  Welcomes the activation of the cooperation agreement on the mutual recognition of AEO between the European Union and Japan; encourages the Commission to negotiate similar agreements with other major partners, such as the USA, Canada, China and Russia, with full regard for the role of Parliament and to include this element in the negotiations on bilateral trade agreements; emphasises the value of stepping up customs cooperation with Russia and the Eastern Partnership and Mediterranean Partnership countries in order to facilitate international trade and combat customs fraud and counterfeiting;

10. Encourages the Commission to develop multilateral cooperation and coordination plans within the World Customs Organisation (WCO), in order to lay down joint standards and rules that will improve the security and effectiveness of customs and border procedures and reduce costs through the sharing of standards and the exchange of good practices;

11. Believes that an agreement on trade facilitation as part of the Doha Round would benefit the member states of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), notably by strengthening legal certainty and reducing commercial costs; thus encourages the Commission for its part to push forward the conclusion of this agreement with a view to the ministerial conference next December;

12. Stresses the importance of ensuring that legitimate customs checks carried out by third countries are not, in certain circumstances, misused to create new, de facto non-tariff barriers to goods originating from the EU.  

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

11.10.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

24

0

4

Members present for the final vote

William (The Earl of) Dartmouth, Laima Liucija Andrikienė, Kader Arif, Martin Callanan, David Campbell Bannerman, Daniel Caspary, Marielle De Sarnez, Christofer Fjellner, Yannick Jadot, Bernd Lange, David Martin, Emilio Menéndez del Valle, Vital Moreira, Paul Murphy, Franck Proust, Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, Niccolò Rinaldi, Helmut Scholz, Peter Šťastný, Robert Sturdy, Gianluca Susta, Iuliu Winkler, Pablo Zalba Bidegain, Paweł Zalewski

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

José Bové, George Sabin Cutaş, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Elisabeth Köstinger, Jörg Leichtfried


OPINION of the Committee on Budgetary Control (6.10.2011)

for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

on modernisation of customs

(2011/2083(INI))

Rapporteur: Bart Staes

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Budgetary Control calls on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

1.  Underlines that proceeds from customs duties are an important part of the EU’s traditional own resources, representing, together with sugar levies, EUR 16 777 100 000 for the year 2011, and that an efficient customs system is of primary importance when it comes to protecting the EU’s financial interests; stresses that the correct operation of customs has direct consequences in terms of the calculation of value added tax, which is another important source of EU budget revenue;

2.  Stresses that efficient prevention of irregularities and fraud in the customs field, through proper controls, not only secures the protection of the Union’s financial interests, but also has important consequences for the Internal Market, eliminating the unfair advantage those economic operators who underpay duties or understate the values declared to customs have over those economic operators who do not;

3.  Recalls that the Commission’s objective is to make national customs administrations act as if they were one, ensuring controls with equivalent results at every point of the Union’s customs territory(1); points out that this cannot be achieved without interoperable communication and information-exchange systems at Member State and Commission level; deplores the very slow progress in this respect; points out that the controls must be based on mutually agreed standards and reliable risk-evaluation criteria with regard to the selection of goods and economic operators;

4.  Calls for closer cooperation, and the active exchange of information and proven procedures, with the customs authorities of the EU’s neighbouring countries with regard to customs modernisation and efforts to combat smuggling and corruption in the customs system;

5.  Stresses that the widespread use of simplified customs procedures for imports, which tend to reduce customs formalities and control before the release of goods, is one of the key elements of the EU’s customs policy; recalls that over 70 % of all customs procedures are simplified; regrets however that those procedures have led to unjustified levels of losses to the Union budget and breaches in the EU’s trade policy;

6.  Calls on the Commission, in order to reduce the risk of TOR losses, to ensure, at Member State level, proper system audits of operators prior to authorisation to use simplified customs procedures and proper ex-post audits;

7.  Points out that, in a number of Member States, small and medium-sized companies in particular use the option that is available under the Customs Code of ‘oral’ customs declarations for the import and export of consignments under the value of EUR 1 000; stresses that abolishing this simplified procedure would considerably increase the administrative and financial burden on SMEs in particular, and would therefore be at odds with the Union’s aim of reducing red tape; insists that the option of ‘oral’ customs declarations should be retained in the implementing rules for the modernised Customs Code;

8.  Recalls that customs control should be based on risk analysis using, amongst others, automated data processing techniques(2) and points out that, in the European Court of Auditors’ view, only automated risk profiles integrated into the processing of customs declarations can sufficiently protect the financial and trade policy interests of the EU; deplores that very few Member States have automated risk profiles for TOR and common trade policy issues in place; urges the Commission to take the necessary measures in order to address this situation;

9.  Reiterates its position set out in the conclusions of Part III of Parliament’s resolution of 10 May 2011 on the Court of Auditors’ special reports in the context of the 2009 Commission discharge, concerning the Court's special report entitled ‘Are simplified customs procedures for imports effectively controlled?’.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

3.10.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

17

1

0

Members present for the final vote

Marta Andreasen, Jean-Pierre Audy, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Tamás Deutsch, Jens Geier, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Ingeborg Gräßle, Ville Itälä, Jan Mulder, Jan Olbrycht, Crescenzio Rivellini, Bart Staes, Georgios Stavrakakis, Søren Bo Søndergaard

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Zuzana Brzobohatá, Véronique Mathieu, Theodoros Skylakakis, Derek Vaughan

(1)

Decision No 624/2007/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 May 2007 establishing an action programme for customs in the Community (Customs 2013), OJ L 154, 14.6.2007, p. 25.

(2)

Regulation (EC) No 648/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 April 2005 amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 establishing the Community Customs Code, OJ L 117, 4.5.2005, p.13.


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

22.11.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

33

0

0

Members present for the final vote

Pablo Arias Echeverría, Adam Bielan, Lara Comi, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, António Fernando Correia De Campos, Jürgen Creutzmann, Cornelis de Jong, Evelyne Gebhardt, Małgorzata Handzlik, Iliana Ivanova, Eija-Riitta Korhola, Edvard Kožušník, Hans-Peter Mayer, Phil Prendergast, Mitro Repo, Robert Rochefort, Heide Rühle, Matteo Salvini, Christel Schaldemose, Andreas Schwab, Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein, Bernadette Vergnaud, Barbara Weiler

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Regina Bastos, María Irigoyen Pérez, George Lyon, Ramona Nicole Mănescu, Emma McClarkin, Konstantinos Poupakis, Sylvana Rapti, Marc Tarabella, Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, Wim van de Camp

Last updated: 25 November 2011Legal notice