The Commission wants to modernise, strengthen and rationalise the customs union in the years ahead

The European Commission presented a Communication which takes stock of the current state of the EU customs union, identifies the challenges that it currently faces, and sets out priority actions for ensuring its future evolution.

The Communication on the State of Customs Union adopted by the European Commission has as aim to ensure that the EU customs union is as modern, effective and efficient as possible in the coming years, to continue its work in ensuring a safe and competitive Europe. According to the Commission, it sets out a course of action to modernise, strengthen and rationalise the customs union in the years ahead. In December 2012, the European Court of Justice clarified when customs authorities may detain imitations or copies in transit within EU territory.

The Commission highlighted in the Communication that the modernisation of the customs union, which was started in 2003, must be completed as a priority. Also, it calls for accelerating the addressing of identified gaps. Other measures foreseen for 2013 include a proposal on approximation of customs penalties, a review of tariff suspensions/quota rules, implementing a crisis management action plan and developing a toolbox of procedures to improve the efficiency of customs in enforcing health, safety and environment rules. Moreover, the Commission announced that a review of governance of how the customs union functions internally will be initiated.

EU customs process 2 billion tonnes of goods worth €3,300 billion, and collect €16.6 billion in customs duties every year. Over the past 4 decades, the customs union has evolved into a multi-functional service provider, delivering both for businesses and for society as a whole. The Commission stressed that customs not only ensure smooth trade flows and protect against security risks; they also help to enforce other policies such as public health, consumer protection, intellectual property rights, environment and agriculture.