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Strategy for the Customs Union

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Strategy for the Customs Union

The Commission defines a new strategy to be adopted for customs activities in the European Union in order to adapt to the present and future changes and to propose concrete actions to be taken.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee of 8 February 2001 concerning a strategy for the Customs Union [COM (2001) 51 final – Not published in the Official Journal]


This Communication reviews the challenges confronting customs activities at present and in the short term: enlargement of the European Union, the fight against fraud, organised crime, the role of Customs in revenue collection, developments in international trade, the safety of citizens, new trading techniques, influence on the competitiveness of EU businesses and the increasing importance of indirect taxes.

The Communication refers to best practices, cooperation between the structures involved, training of officials and operators, simplification of legislation and investments in infrastructure and equipment as instruments to meet the above-mentioned challenges.

The European Union's strategic objectives in the field of customs for the coming years are:

  • to provide a framework based on transparent, stable and appropriate rules for the development of international trade;
  • to provide the Community and Member States with the necessary resources;
  • to protect society from unfair trading and to safeguard its financial, commercial, health and environmental interests.

The Commission has indicated five areas of action for introducing the new strategy for the Customs Union: simplifying and rationalising legislation, improving customs controls, providing a good service to the business community, improving training and improving international cooperation in the customs field.

Simplifying and rationalising legislation

Amendments to the customs legislation are necessary to confront issues of fraud and to take account of changes in the business world. The Communication proposes the following practical actions:

  • to involve economic operators in the preparation of legislation and to assist them with complex legislation;
  • to continue the harmonisation of sanctions;
  • to ensure that all regulations allow data to be transmitted electronically;
  • to improve the implementation of legislation.

Improving customs controls

Several actions are proposed in this field:

  • to improve the standards and application of controls;
  • to improve cooperation between the customs administrations and between them and the tax authorities, police authorities, etc.
  • to use risk analysis more effectively;
  • to reinforce the fight against counterfeiting, piracy and false origin marking;
  • to introduce a new computerised transit system (NCTS);
  • to apply the new information technologies to the customs;
  • to develop joint audit modules between the Commission and the Member States.

Providing a good service to the business community

The Communication lists the following actions to improve the service to the business community:

  • to simplify and improve procedures;
  • to facilitate electronic access to customs information;
  • to continue the work on facilitating trade;
  • to use memoranda of understanding to strengthen cooperation.

Improving training

Training is obviously necessary for customs officials and economic operators. The Commission is proposing:

  • to set up common training modules;
  • to complete the feasibility study on the European Customs Academy;
  • to direct training towards problem areas and business compliance with the legislation.

Improving international cooperation

In order to improve cooperation between the customs administrations, the Communication emphasises the need:

  • to represent the Community appropriately in the international forums dealing with customs issues;
  • to promote international cooperation in view of the challenges of enlargement and combating fraud, among other things.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 1 April 2008 entitled: "Strategy for the evolution of the Customs Union" [COM(2008) 169 final – Not published in the Official Journal] The present strategy aims to complete the customs reform. After the modernisation of the customs legal and technological environment, this process is to be applied in the customs administrations, bringing out the human dimension.

See also

Last updated: 27.05.2008