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Communication from the Commission to the Council, European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee on the role of customs in the integrated management of external borders

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52003DC0452(02)

Communication from the Commission to the Council, European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee on the role of customs in the integrated management of external borders /* COM/2003/0452 final */


COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE on the role of customs in the integrated management of external borders

This Communication is a sequel to that presented by the Commission in May 2002 on the integrated management of the external borders of the Member States of the European Union. [1]

[1] COM (2002) 233 final, 7.5.2002.

It also takes account of the Commission Communication of February 2001 on a strategy for the Customs Union [2] and the related Council Resolution of June 2001. [3] The strategy for the Customs Union must be adapted and extended to take account of growing security concerns. Although customs is primarily responsible for the control of goods, it will have an important role to play in combating the new threats linked to goods crossing Community borders. The Community must have the resources to guarantee its citizens' safety and security against the risks from trafficking, health or environmental hazards or terrorism.

[2] COM (2001) 51 final, 8.2.2001.

[3] OJ C 171, 15.6.2001, p.1.

This Communication proposes to rationalise the management of customs controls via a common strategy for goods-linked risks to be defined in close cooperation with all the authorities involved in a common framework. Its aim is to give customs and the other authorities responsible for managing goods at the external border the resources they need to combat any risk to the Community's safety and security in a coordinated manner. To attain this objective it proposes priority-setting for customs controls, the introduction of a Community risk management system and identification of the resources and equipment which will be needed.

It concludes that the border guards, who bear primary responsibility for checks on persons, and the customs authorities, responsible for controls on goods, have the common objective of ensuring a high level of protection for citizens within an area offering freedom, security and justice. The complementary and closely intertwined nature of their tasks makes it desirable to enhance the synergies between them, exploiting their different strengths and providing mechanisms guaranteeing greater effective cooperation.

CONTENTS

1. INTRODUCTION 39

2. CUSTOMS AND SAFETY PROVISIONS: A FIRST OFFICIAL REPORT 40

3. THE MAIN THREATS TO THE COMMUNITY'S SAFETY

4. CUSTOMS CAN IMPROVE SAFETY OF GOODS

4.1 The central role of the customs for the control of goods

4.2 Rationalise the customs controls at the external borders

4.3 Give customs safety functions a legislative and financial framework

5 DESIRABLE IMPROVEMENTS

5.1 A common approach to risks

5.2 Guarantee an appropriate level of human resources and equipment

5.3 Facilitate trade without compromising the safety and security of the EC

5.4 Study the possibility of sharing responsibilities

5.5 Strengthen cooperation with the third countries

5.6 Support measures for enlargement

6 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1. In December 2001, the Laeken European Council asked "the Council and the Commission to work out arrangements for cooperation between services responsible for external border control and to examine the conditions in which a mechanism or common services to control external borders could be created". [4] In response to this request, the Commission drew up an integrated European strategy for the management of external borders reflecting the multidimensional nature of the task. The principal aim of this strategy is to improve security and other controls carried out at the external border and to facilitate bona fide movements of travellers and legitimate trade.

[4] Conclusion No 42 of the Laeken European Council of 14 and 15 December 2001, p. 12.

1.2. In May 2002, the Commission presented a Communication on integrated management of the external borders of the Member States of the European Union. [5] This dealt primarily with checks on persons and stressed that effective common management of the European Union's external borders would enhance security and the feeling among its citizens of belonging to a common area and sharing a common destiny. The Communication announced that there would be a second contribution dealing with goods. This takes the form of this Communication which suggests ways of improving the integrated management of controls of goods and their means of transport (luggage included) and makes other proposals in areas where customs can provide support for checks of persons carried out by other authorities. Both Communications are complementary and constitute the first stages in the overall strategy that the Commission is proposing for integrated and effective management of external borders, the aim being to achieve a coherent framework for joint action at EU level.

[5] COM(2002) 233 final, 7.5.2002.

1.3. To comply with the European Council's request it is essential to consider not only how to improve controls through increased cooperation between authorities responsible for external border controls, but also whether current controls sufficiently guarantee the security of the Community and its citizens. The term security is used in the widest sense here. It covers not only threats to public security in the movement of goods (criminal, terrorist or other trafficking or illegal trade in firearms, biological products or explosives, for example), but also the threats to society's security from trade in goods which pose a risk to public health, the environment and consumers. Irrespective of whether they come under the first or third pillar, these measures are complementary and have the same objectives. They must all help create the area of freedom, safety and justice established by the Treaty of Amsterdam.

1.4. The current methods used by customs for controls of goods do not adequately address increasing security concerns. This is why this Communication recommends fundamental changes in the way threats to security are combated without creating obstacles to legitimate trade. The strategy proposed combines rationalisation of customs controls with a common definition, worked out in cooperation with the other authorities concerned, of the methods and means used to more effectively check goods. The aim of the recommendations is to maximise the combined impact of controls carried out by different authorities and make more resources and equipment available. Once these proposals are implemented, they will improve public security and have a positive impact on trade, investment, growth, and consequently, on employment within the Community.

1.5. The Communication also proposes all the improvements needed in Community frontier controls to improve security, while embracing the new Member States, who will be required from accession to ensure that no dangerous or illegal goods compromise the security of the other Member States or of the Community. In this connection it should be borne in mind that the majority of security controls, unlike some of the financial controls, have to be carried out at the Community border.

1.6. This Communication forms part of the guidelines laid down in the Commission Communication of February 2001 concerning a strategy for the Customs Union [6] and of the related Council Resolution of June 2001. [7] It takes these proposals further to take greater account of security aspects.

[6] COM(2001) 51 final, 8.2.2001.

[7] OJ No C 171, 15.6.2001, p. 1.

1.7. It is not the purpose of this Communication to call in question the guidelines or priority measures laid down as part of the overall strategic approach for protecting the Community's financial interests or fighting fraud, as set out in Commission Communication COM(2000) 358 final of 28 June 2000, nor customs mutual assistance operations under either Regulation (EC) No 515/97 [8] or the mutual assistance protocols or agreements with third countries.

[8] Council Regulation (EC) No 515/97 of 13 March 1997 on mutual assistance between the administrative authorities of the Member States and cooperation between the latter and the Commission to ensure the correct application of the law on customs and agricultural matters (OJ L 82, 22.3.1997, p. 1).

The Commission calls on the Council, Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee to discuss these proposals and to endorse the measures described in Section 6 of this Communication so that concrete proposals can be presented for their implementation.

2. CUSTOMS AND SECURITY: AN INITIAL CONCLUSION

Customs work in the Community has typically evolved in the context of financial and commercial controls. Broadly speaking, the fight against fraud has traditionally been seen as part of the task of supervising the flow of goods. More recently, the focus has been on the threat to public security from dangerous or hazardous goods. Work has been organised on this basis and Community instruments such as the customs modernisation programmes have been used to identify best practice for financial and commercial controls.

In the light of the growing threats from dangerous goods, organised crime or terrorist organisations, it has to be asked whether this approach provides adequate protection for the Community and its citizens at all points along the external border.

The Commission considers that it does not.

Present controls do ensure the financial interests of the Community and its Member States are protected, particularly as any problems arising once goods have entered the Community can be rectified through post-clearance audits. But they do not adequately counter or prevent terrorist action and they are no longer able to guarantee a high level of protection for citizens against the risks from dangerous or defective goods.

All the Member States are active in these areas, but measures and priorities and investment in equipment and resources differ from one Member State to another. At Community level, there is no uniformity or harmonisation of security controls which are sometimes slow to respond to new threats. This results in varying levels of performance in these areas at different points in the customs territory. In some places computerised risk management systems have been introduced with the requisite human resources and equipment, whereas in others controls are less effective owing to a lack of investment and modern systems.

In security terms, this means that the chances of seizing explosive devices, biological weapons or dangerous goods in time depend upon where at the Community's external border these goods enter. The risk of diversified treatment will only increase after enlargement. There is consequently a real need to coordinate these individual approaches so that best national practice becomes the Community standard.

This Communication applies to all the Community's external frontiers, land borders, ports and airports, and takes into account the importance of the fifth enlargement.

To ensure the efficient integrated management of the EU's external frontiers, we need pragmatic solutions, underpinned by a firm financial and political commitment, otherwise the Community will run the risk of becoming an easy target for fraud and terrorists.

Current security checks on goods must be improved to ensure a high and identical level of protection at all points along the Community's external border.

This Communication discusses ways of improving the safety of goods. It lists the principal threats to be countered, the weaknesses in current systems and highlights the specific areas which require close attention. It indicates what customs should do to improve the situation and how to strengthen cooperation with the other authorities responsible for the safety of goods.

3. THE PRINCIPAL THREATS TO SECURITY

There are many different threats to the Community's safety and security. They can be classified in a number of categories:

* Criminal or terrorist threats:

- direct threats: a deliberate intention to introduce prohibited goods such as explosives, or nuclear, biological or chemical weapons;

- indirect threats: smuggling or trafficking in illegal goods (drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, counterfeit goods) to supply or finance terrorist or organised criminal organisations (money laundering).

* Health and safety risks to consumers:

Health risks: these are concerns linked to bio-safety threats, e.g., as a result of non-authorised imports of contaminated products (the spread of some cases of mad cow disease has been attributed to the import of contaminated meat) or products arising from new scientific developments such as GMOs. In terms of consumption, narcotics, anabolic substances or other doping agents can also be classed in this category.

Risks linked to dangerous products: these cover certain counterfeit goods or goods which do not meet Community safety standards, e.g., medicines, food products or utensils (lighters, spare parts, etc.).

* Environmental and health risks: these include the illegal introduction of fauna and flora species in danger of extinction, radioactive material or sick animals.

Risks to public security: trafficking in illegal arms or drugs.

To combat the increasing threat of deliberate attacks or risks to the safety and security of Community society there must be a greater focus on controls of goods.

To counter threats to security, improvements have already been proposed for the checks of persons which are mainly carried out by border guards, often in close co-operation with customs. However other aspects must also be addressed to combat crime, terrorism or any other security threat effectively. The risks linked to the introduction into the Community of weapons, radioactive substances or explosives or contaminated meat or sub-standard medicines usually concern movements of goods at Community borders. The 100 000 or so customs officers in the European Union [9] have a vital role to play by strengthening coordination at European level and working in closer cooperation with other border control authorities, and the police in particular.

[9] This may seem to be a very significant figure but it covers all customs work which varies from one Member State to another (tax, customs management and specific national duties).

4. IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF GOODS

4.1 The traditional role of customs in the control of goods

Customs sometimes assist the authorities which are primarily responsible for checking persons at borders. The information they gather in routine checks of travellers and vehicles, or simply through a physical presence at borders, can often be used to detect international crime, sometimes in close cooperation with the other security authorities.

However, only customs has sufficiently broad and detailed expertise to carry appropriate safety controls on goods.

Customs has long experience in the control of legitimate trade and has been able to establish close contact networks with traders and acquire a detailed knowledge of goods. Through its expertise and networks, customs has access to information which it can use to better target and combat illegal or high-risk trafficking. In addition to its special contacts it has customs offices at all border posts including international ports and airports, and sometimes even on traders' premises. It is therefore the only organisation which is able to track movements of goods into or out of, or even within, the Community. Customs monitors movements of goods by land, sea or air at border crossing and customs clearance points. These advantages should be exploited to improve the safety of goods.

Customs plays a central role in the control of legal goods and hence the detection of illegal goods. Its presence on the borders mean it is well placed to detect illicit traffic not presented for clearance by the normal channels. It must therefore have the necessary resources to ensure close and effective cooperation and coordination with the other border security authorities. Customs administrations have certain types of information and have developed assistance and co-operation machinery; [10] the police and other authorities also have their own systems and sources of information (e.g., intelligence systems to detect suspect persons or criminals). Greater sharing of all this information will play a key role in improving the detection of crime of whatever origin, while ensuring that each authority retains its own powers. It will also increase synergies between authorities.

[10] Council Regulation (EC) No 515/97 of 13 March 1997 on mutual assistance between the administrative authorities of the Member States and cooperation between the latter and the Commission to ensure the correct application of the law on customs and agricultural matters (see footnote 8); Convention drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, on mutual assistance and cooperation between customs administrations (OJ C 24 , 23.1.1998).

If customs is to undertake this role, customs work will have to be reorganised in order to rationalise external border controls. This is crucial, particularly after enlargement, as the new Member States will be required to apply Community customs legislation immediately. The Schengen rules will also apply from accession but a Council decision will be needed to remove controls at internal frontiers with the new Member States.

4.2 Rationalise customs controls at external borders

As a rule, Member States apply customs controls in accordance with Community legislation, but it is often national interests that dictate the selection of control priorities. This inevitably leads to different levels and degrees of protection from one point to another in the customs territory, in particular in relation to security controls that are not yet necessarily designed at Community level. This encourages illicit trafficking at border points where controls are weak. This gap has to be plugged. The level of protection at external borders must be made as uniform as possible by identifying security controls common to all Member States, particularly as, in future, many controls will have to be carried out by the new Member States and they too have their own national priorities.

The Member States responsible for management of the external border are also responsible for the security of the Community as a whole and not only for that of their own country. It is therefore in the Community interest to ensure that the principal security risks are addressed in a timely and harmonised manner at each point on the external border.

That will mean that customs operations will have to be reorganised to make the controls as effective as possible through a process of rationalisation involving priority setting and combining effective security and optimum management of resources.

Customs will play two distinct roles:

- a tax and commercial role to protect Community and national economic and financial interests;

- a safety and security role to protect European society.

The risks involved in these two roles will have to be weighed in order to identify the main risks necessitating controls to be undertaken at external borders. For other, equally important, risks, controls could be undertaken elsewhere, provided that this does not lead to any increase in fraud. The objective will be to focus at border posts controls of the greatest risks, i.e., controls which could have irreparable consequences if they are not carried out when goods cross borders.

Controls undertaken under customs' tax and commercial policy role could, in many cases, easily be carried out in places other than border posts. By simplifying and modernising customs procedures as envisaged in the Communication on electronic customs, control data could increasingly be transmitted electronically in a way that ensures a high level of protection for Community and national interests and does not increase the risk of fraud. In the process we could define more clearly which tax and commercial policy controls still have to be carried out at border posts. Such rationalisation could reduce the long queues at border posts.

On the other hand, many of the controls necessary for the Community's safety and security can only be undertaken at border posts: it is essential to ensure that explosives, contaminated food or radioactive substances do not cross Community borders without being checked or seized. Controls which would not provide sufficient guarantees if they were carried out at customs offices inside the Community must be identified and confined to border posts.

Prioritising of risks and, hence, of controls to be carried out at border posts requires the unequivocal endorsement of the political authorities. Customs must also be given the legislative, regulatory and financial resources to implement this strategy.

4.3 Provide customs with the legislative and financial framework it requires

Before an overall strategy to improve the effectiveness of integrated external border management can be introduced we must look at controls as a whole, whether they be Community or national. The arbitrary distinction drawn at Community level between those that come under the first pillar and those that come under the third pillar is incompatible with the objectives of ensuring high-level protection at all points on the external border without creating obstacles to legitimate trade. In the longer term such a distinction might well be abolished. Work on the European Convention already seems to be moving in this direction. However, without prejudging the outcome of the Convention discussions, we must use existing instruments to enhance customs' security role.

Customs uses two strategies to track movements of goods: a control strategy based on customs procedures and an investigative strategy designed to prevent or combat fraud which can also serve as input either into the control selection process or for detecting risks not identified in controls. Each of these strategies needs to be improved.

Community rules, including restrictions and prohibitions laid down by Community law, must be uniformly applied. Controls based on national measures must be harmonised, as differences in implementation from one Member State to another may have a deleterious impact on the Community's security. A common Community strategy for controls and their treatment will enhance security performance throughout the Community. Such a strategy does not mean that national risk priorities cannot be maintained provided that basic security controls by all Member States are weighted and applied in the same way at all points on external borders.

Customs' investigative powers vary widely from one Member State to another. Such powers are a logical adjunct to customs controls and essential to the effective combating of fraud from its investigation to detection. A common strategy on Member States' customs powers, duties and roles is needed here. There must also be greater synergy with the police. Customs' role in "policing" goods must be more clearly defined. Customs must play an active role in police investigations to identify or find perpetrators of fraud as their objectives are the same. Fraud will be more effectively investigated, identified and detected by comparing police and customs data, which is often complementary, and pooling their expertise and resources.

The Community must also encourage increasingly closer cooperation between the authorities concerned, harmonisation of working methods, pooling of relevant information and the setting of interdisciplinary networks. This will also require the development, introduction or greater use of secure (existing or future) systems for the storage, processing or exchange of information.

The existing legal framework will have to be extended and adapted to make these improvements. The scope of legislation must be extended to cover customs powers and duties. Existing customs law must also be amended to take account of security criteria. The Customs Code is an example. It is primarily based on the tax and commercial policy aspects of customs' role and pays much less attention to "security" aspects. It will have to be amended so that instruments such as risk management and trade facilitation measures take greater account of security aspects.

Finally, it has to be said that there is still no real Community policy on the provision of the material resources needed for such controls. This problem is likely to become more acute in an enlarged Community. We must therefore consider appropriate financial solutions [11] and explore the possibilities offered by Community (structural or other) funds, while taking care to avoid duplication of effort.

[11] Including the possibility of using the 25% withheld by Member States as the cost of collecting traditional own resources to finance the fight against fraud and the protection of the Communities' financial interests, applicable since the entry into force of Council Decision No 2000/597 of 29 September 2000.

This safety and security dimension must form an integral part of all legal, budgetary and customs instruments and working methods. The Commission can play an important role here. It will not act in the place of the Member States, but will, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity and through increased coordination, encourage them to work together to achieve common goals.

5. NECESSARY IMPROVEMENTS

5.1. A common risk strategy

Rationalisation of the risk management strategy and methods is an essential starting point. This will involve, initially, identifying those controls which can be moved without encouraging a proliferation of the risks that they address and those which have to be carried out at border posts. The objective is to ensure that priority is given to what is strictly necessary for the Community's security and that controls are carried out where they are most effective.

On this basis, a common risk strategy at the external border bust be:

* common;

* rationalised;

* computerised;

* complete;

Common

The controls which must be maintained at border posts for reasons of safety and security have to be weighed in order of priority. All the authorities concerned (customs, police, consumer; health, environmental and other authorities) must work together to establish these priorities and to define the relevant common risk profiles. The profiles established must then be used to select from the data made available by all the agencies concerned that which will be the most useful for risk analysis. Although some progress has already been made in the Community there is a lack of coordination. There is an increasing need for a single organisational framework for all these authorities to coordinate efforts and to identify any improvements or innovations which may be necessary.

The Commission Communication of May 2002 proposed the setting up of a common external border practitioners unit comprising the heads of all the authorities responsible for safety at external borders to oversee and plan operations. [12]

[12] This unit would act as a "head" of the common policy of management of the external boarders to carry out common and integrated risk analysis; act as a "leader" coordinating and controlling operational projects on the ground, in particular in crisis situations; act as manager and strategist to ensure greater convergence between the national policies in the field of personnel and equipment; exercise a form power of inspection, in particular in the event of crisis or if risk evaluation demands it". COM(2002) 233, p. 14.

Within this authority (assuming it turns out to be multi-disciplinary) or some other form of organisation to be defined, customs would be responsible for all matters relating to the control of legally and illegally traded goods, in cooperation with the other authorities. Customs guidelines could then be discussed in the light of the policies adopted at Community level by the Customs Policy Group and in synergy with the work of other groups. The unit's activities could then if necessary be extended beyond those under Article 66, as proposed in the previous Communication, and not confined to aspects connected with the free movement of persons.

Rationalised

All goods-related data should be sent by traders to customs for an initial risk selection to be carried out on the basis of common profiles. Certain information would be required before goods actually arrived. This would enable customs to centralise the requisite data and reduce the number of channels currently used. Customs' expertise in goods and trade could thus be made available to other authorities without encroaching on their respective areas of responsibility. Customs would immediately forward to the relevant authorities the risk information they collect which was of relevance to them, so that they could follow it up.

This will mean establishing a single channel for transmission and subsequent processing of information on the basis of profiles established by all the authorities concerned. This approach will have the dual advantage of clarifying the organisational framework required to guarantee the safety of the Union's future border and of simplifying the administrative formalities which have to be fulfilled by traders, e.g. obviating the need to send two or three copies of data common to several authorities or introducing a standard format for information transmission.

Effective and rapid systems for information transmission between customs and the other relevant authorities will have to be set up. COM(2002) 233 proposed the introduction by the external frontier practitioners unit of a security procedure (PROSECUR) for the rapid transfer of information between the authorities responsible for the security of the external border. Customs and other authorities responsible for implementing customs regulations represented within this unit would be responsible for overseeing these procedures for the exchange of information on goods, based on suitably adapted versions of the existing information systems (Taric, the anti-fraud information system AFIS, or the customs information system CIS). [13]

[13] Council Regulation (EC) No 515/97 of 13 March 1997, OJ L 82, 22.3.1997; Convention on the use of information technology for customs purposes, OJ C 316, 27.11.1995.

This work would form an integral part of an overall approach deploying all resources, according to the nature of information and the risks identified, to establish direct links and exchanges between the relevant authorities.

Computerised

Availability of data is not the only important aspect; data must also be delivered in an appropriate form at the right time and at the right place. Data must be accessible in electronic format for a rapid evaluation of the risks involved in highly significant movements of goods. At present, data is not always sent to the customs in this form. In some Member States, information on customs declarations exists in electronic form, but it is not always possible to transfer it quickly to where it would be most useful; in other Member States, information (in particular export data) is only transmitted manually. Other sources of data such as bills of lading, which are essential for early risk evaluation, are even less often accessible in electronic form.

Transmission of data by electronic means should become standard practice to ensure that it is rapidly and effectively processed. That will mean traders will have to use the electronic format but there must be a margin of flexibility for SMEs and private individuals. The requisite customs databases will also have to be introduced at Community and/or national level.

Complete

A common approach to risk management will be useful only if it is accompanied by a common approach to the controls needed to detect hazardous goods. That will mean the nature and type of control required must be defined and control standards must be set to determine where and by whom controls should be carried out and with what type of specialised equipment.

A common rationalised, computerised and complete risk-based approach will help make the Community a safer place as it will enable basic risks to be prioritised and treated in the same way along its external border. But there will always be some risk and means will have to be taken to correct what customs fails to detect. Customs' experience in identifying and tracking flows of goods must be exploited everywhere (at border and internal customs posts) in all areas or sectors where it can benefit the Community's security. Customs' role in "policing" goods must be clarified here. Customs must be able to take part in investigations undertaken to detect or identify perpetrators of fraud. Greater synergy between customs and the police will also help to more effectively identify and prevent fraud.

5.2. Guarantee an adequate level of human resources and equipment

It is essential to ensure there is an adequate level of human resources and equipment to carry out the controls which are required. It is in the Community's interests to ensure a sufficient level of resources and equipment at external borders. The external borders do not only concern the country geographically involved, they concern all the Community's Member States. It is therefore essential that national and Community parameters be used to identify practical needs. There are two immediate concerns:

* Availability of the minimum level of equipment required (e.g. scanners, radiation detectors, etc.) at each control point must be ensured. An inventory of necessary/existing equipment could be used to determine the equipment level to be attained. To avoid disproportionate costs, some border posts should specialise in controlling certain types of goods where this involves special and expensive equipment. This would make it possible to spread equipment costs more equitably and to concentrate the specific expertise required at these points. Care must be taken, however, to see that this does not result in additional non-tariff barriers being placed in the way of legitimate trade, e.g. the extra cost of presenting goods at designated specialist customs posts remote from their destination.

* The possibility of setting up rapid response teams to deal with unexpected risks should be explored. To ensure a high level of safety and security at every point along the external border quickly it must be possible to provide a rapid response to unforeseen dangers or risks wherever they occur. The constitution of a "European reserve unit", which could be mobilised at any given time and anywhere would be a way of doing so. The possibility of mobilising highly specialised expertise units would make it possible to harmonise the levels and types of controls carried out at any point on the external border.

It should be noted that the Member States are responsible for the use and financing of resources but the Commission can encourage coordination between Member States and identification of the most appropriate means and Community solutions where desirable and possible.

5.3. Facilitate trade without compromising safety and security

The aim of this Communication is to rethink and strengthen customs' security role. That does not, however, mean its other functions should be considered to be less important.

Customs in particular plays a vital economic role: it contributes to the smooth flow of legitimate trade. If administrative formalities and customs procedures are slow, if every consignment of goods which crosses borders has to be physically checked, customs would become an obstacle to trade with the Community. This is neither its aim, nor its function. Customs must have a positive economic impact. It is for this reason that numerous measures have been taken to facilitate trade by speeding up and simplifying customs procedures and controls concerning legitimate trade. Instruments such as the February 2001 Communication on a strategy for the Customs Union, the 2002 Customs programme and customs cooperation projects with non-Community countries have made a strong contribution. This Communication underlines the importance of these measures and the need to continue them while ensuring an appropriate trade-off between protection of the Community and its citizens and facilitation of legitimate trade.

By way of example, trade facilitation measures include the simplification of customs formalities. But up to now facilities have been granted mainly in the light of tax and commercial risks.

Consequently we also need to consider the question of security in the transport sector. Facilities are generally granted to traders, importers or exporters who are sufficiently known to customs or who have provided the necessary guarantees. But, except in the case of transit, there is not yet any guarantee in respect of intermediaries (carriers, etc.). Authorising producers will not enhance security unless carriers are also equally reliable.

The whole of the current "facilitation" strategy must therefore be reviewed as the granting of facilities must also be conditional on safety and security criteria. This will of course mean that the entire supply logistics chain must be made more secure. The World Customs Organisation is also looking at these issues, so we need to keep track of each other's work with a view to coordinated implementation.

5.4. Study the possibility of responsibility-sharing

A number of initiatives have introduced the concept of sharing responsibility for controls between trading partners. The latest, an American initiative on container safety, proposes the sharing of data on goods which move from one country to another so that high-risk traffic can be more effectively identified. This approach is interesting from the viewpoint of greater international security, but at European level, it will not produce the anticipated effects unless it is introduced at Community level and is based on close cooperation between Member States and any third countries concerned.

At European level, the principal component of this approach would have to be retained: it is usually easier to carry out checks in the exporting country than at entry points. If this approach is put into practice it will enable information to be transferred from the point where it can be most easily located and is most complete to speed up customs procedures for legitimate trade without compromising safety. This will save time and increase efficiency.

The Community should promote this principle of shared responsibility, in particular with the countries with which it shares an external frontier and with its main airborne or seaborne trading partners.

Of course, the principle of shared responsibility also applies to the Community which must, for example, assume its own responsibilities for controlling exports. To date Community controls have focused on imports and export controls are comparatively weak. The Community is an important trading area and must therefore protect not only itself but also the rest of the world, in particular the most vulnerable developing countries, against fraudulent and criminal intentions (e.g. illegal exports of banned or dangerous chemicals). Export controls are an important security aspect that must not be neglected. If certain export control duties were assigned to internal customs posts, the Community would be better able to discharge its responsibility without overloading controls at external borders. Computerised transmission of the necessary data would make it possible to check instantaneously at border posts whether the necessary controls had actually been carried out. However, individual controls requiring special or expensive equipment have to be carried out at specialised border posts.

5.5. Strengthen cooperation with non-Community countries

Effective integrated management of the external border will require an overall cooperation policy with non-Community countries.

Close co-operation with neighbouring countries is essential to ensure effective surveillance of common borders. We need to continue and build on regional initiatives. [14] The recent Commission Communication "Wider Europe - Neighbourhood: A New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours" [15] likewise emphasises that frontier offices are primarily crossing points and that to preserve that function while providing the necessary security, greater cross-border cooperation is crucial.

[14] Such as the Imatra process launched in 1999 and measures taken by the Baltic Customs Conference, within the framework of the Baltic Council.

[15] COM(2003) 104 final, 11.03.2003

Cooperation with non -Community countries must also be strengthened through agreements tailored to the mutual needs of each country or geographical area and the Community. We have already been made considerable efforts in this direction. These will have to be continued and adapted to any new needs which arise.

5.6. Support measures for enlargement

The accession of the new Member States at a time when new countries are joining the WTO will lead to an increase in trade but also create greater opportunities for criminals. .

Additional special measures could be envisaged to support the new Member States in the run-up to accession, giving them the benefit of the best existing customs practice for example by setting up joint teams of customs officers from the Member States and the applicant countries to deal with specific technical questions, at the latter's own request. The Customs 2007 modernisation programme could be used here.

6. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

As enlargement approaches and in view of increasing security concerns it is essential that the Community place the resources at its external borders to guarantee the safety and security of its citizens. Customs bear prime responsibility for controls of goods to safeguard the Community's security and economic development. Customs controls and working methods must be redesigned to protect the Community and its citizens against criminals or terrorists. This will have to be undertaken within a general and integrated framework for the management of external borders and will require not only new organisational structures but also mechanisms for close cooperation and coordination between the authorities involved.

For such a strategy to be successful, the Commission must act as a catalyst for change and as a dynamic coordinating force. Any action undertaken will only be useful if it is implemented throughout the Community. This will require financial commitments at Community level.

The Commission calls on the Council, European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee to discuss the guidelines proposed and to support the measures described above so that proposals for their implementation can be presented without delay.

To this end, the following guidelines are recommended:

I. Rationalise the number of customs controls at customs border posts

1.1. Spread customs workload between border and internal posts:

- by identifying and selecting the priority risks to be addressed;

- by developing appropriate control methods (e.g., based on a coordinated post-clearance audit strategy);

- by adapting trade fluctuations to take account of safety and security criteria.

1.2. .Make the goods supply logistics chain secure by developing and improving techniques to track goods and their means of transport:

II. Introduce a common approach to goods-linked risks and implement it using a common collaboration and cooperation mechanism

2.1 The customs authorities, in cooperation with other relevant authorities, must guide, monitor and adapt the handling of risks linked to goods at external borders. This will involve:

- defining, identifying and weighing at Community level common priority risks;

- setting up a future organisational structure for common risk profiles which can be regularly adapted in the light of results;

- defining at Community level what controls are carried out when risks have been defined and developing control standards.

2.2 All risk information relating to goods required for common risk profiles must be provided by traders to Community customs authorities through a single transmission channel.

- data must be sent electronically;

- certain selected data must be sent before the arrival of goods by a time limit to be agreed.

2.3 A data base and systems must be set up (and/or existing systems suitably meshed to allow cross-referencing) for the storage, processing and exchange of the requisite data:

- the data base, whether centralised at Commission level or decentralised in the Member States, must be accessible to all national customs authorities;

- Member States must undertake to introduce computerised risk selection systems into which risk profiles identified at Community level can be fed to supplement national profiles;

- information on goods gathered by customs must be sent quickly and efficiently to other authorities and systems must be introduced (or existing systems cross-linked) to exchange targeted information between all these authorities.

III. Guarantee an adequate level of human resources and equipment at external borders

3.1 Ensure that the resources required to guarantee a high level of security at external borders are made available. For this purpose:

- Member States must provide and train the customs officers needed (the Customs 2007 programme could be used if necessary);

- the minimum equipment needed must be defined (at Community level) and made available (at national level);

- consideration must be given to possible ways of using Community budgetary resources to finance equipment costs, insofar as the Treaties allow;

- we should identify the scope for greater synergy with other border authorities or concentration of expensive customs equipment at specialised border posts to produce economies of scale.

3.2 Consider specific measures in the run-up to accession to give acceding countries the benefit of the best existing customs practice, for example by setting up joint teams of customs officers from present and future Member States to deal with specific questions, at the latter's own request.

3.3 Consider setting up rapid-reaction teams to deal with unexpected risks. This could take the form of a list of contact points for each Member State and specialised reservists who could be quickly mobilised at the request of one or other State. This should not involve any disproportionate budgetary or legislative costs. At a later date, the formation of interdisciplinary and specialised teams to deal with particular risks could be put on a more formal footing as part of the discussions on the formation of a European border guard unit.

3.4 Identify best working practices for security at external borders and develop and apply these at Community level on the basis of national and Community experience.

3.5 Devise common training measures and an organisational framework for training in the management of external borders for goods controls.

IV. A legal and regulatory framework integrating the security dimension of customs work should be set up

4.1 Extend the scope of legislation to cover customs powers and duties.

4.2 Amend legislation and regulations, in particular the Customs Code and its Implementing Provisions, to incorporate developments in risk management, take account of safety and security criteria in authorising trade facilitation, and ensure better surveillance of the logistics chain, while ensuring that the new measures comply with relevant international norms, do not restrict trade and are not disproportionate to their ends.

4.3 Promote responsibility-sharing agreements based on mutual interests with neighbouring countries and the Community's main seaborne and airborne trade partners. This will also involve identifying high-risk trade flows at source in non-Community countries or territories, enabling us to plan controls which should save time, money and infrastructure and also promote cross-border cooperation.

4.4 Continue or step up cooperation with non-Community countries.

V. Closer cooperation with the police, border guards and other authorities at external borders

5.1 Strengthen operational cooperation and exchange of information at Community and national level between external frontier surveillance authorities (border guards, health, veterinary and environmental authorities and others) where their duties and responsibilities overlap.

5.2 Establish cooperation/coordination structures between these authorities at the most important border posts.

5.3 The information in the possession of customs and police is interlinked and complementary. Their synergies should be enhanced by allowing customs to play an active part in police investigations to detect, identify and prosecute criminals involved in trafficking (and vice versa), introducing common data exchange and comparison systems to help identify emerging frauds and perpetrators of fraud, and ensuring systematic cooperation between customs and the police.

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