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 Full text 
Monday, 24 October 2016 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Union legal framework for customs infringements and sanctions (debate)

  Daniel Dalton, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, I would like to thank the shadows but also particularly Kaja Kallas for her efforts to try and shape a better and more viable proposal. I know she has put a lot of work in and she has made the proposal better, especially in areas where it was inflexible and legally indefensible, like the presumption of innocence. However, despite her efforts, the ECR cannot support it.

The proposal seeks to do two things. One: to set a common approach for defining what a customs infringement is; two: to set common sanctions for those infringements. Now my Group can see the benefit of a common understanding and the need to reduce the complexity of different customs rules, but we disagree that this necessitates a mandatory set of harmonised Union sanctions.

This is a major infringement on subsidiarity, especially as there is little justification for such a move. I have yet to see a viable reason for the proposal. There is no evidence that importers calculate which Member State is the least onerous in terms of sanctions before they import into it. Even Parliament’s Research Services’ appraisal of the Commission impact assessment was unable to find any evidence of this.

However, when we look at the details of the proposal they are even more problematic. The Commission wants to treat a small or medium-sized company, or a home business, with no experience of customs rules, that accidently infringes those rules just as harshly as a multinational corporation with decades of knowledge and hundreds of staff. That is wrong. It risks killing the rapidly growing online cross-border trade and runs directly contrary to the Commission’s aims in creating the digital single market.

At its heart, the original proposal was too prescriptive and inflexible, giving customs regimes no room to use common sense and to examine intent and capabilities when assessing infringement. This should be up to the Member States.

Now on customs sanctions, my Group cannot therefore agree with the rapporteur where she has gone beyond the Commission in some respects, particularly in Articles 11 and 12, with specific figures for specific infringements.

However, to conclude: greater consistency of custom rules for ease of trade, yes; prescriptive one-size-fits-all sanctions that infringe national sovereignty and Member States’ legal systems and risk killing the digital single market, no, and therefore the ECR Group cannot support it.

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