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newsCustoms Union: Commission welcomes political agreement on the new “EU Single Window Environment for Customs” - a tool to streamline digital customs cooperation and facilitate trade

 

The European Commission welcomes the provisional political agreement reached between the co-legislators on the new EU Single Window for Customs initiative, making it easier for different authorities involved in goods clearance to exchange electronic information submitted by traders. As the next step, businesses will be able to submit customs and regulatory information required for import, transit or export of goods only once through a single point of entry.

Making good on President von der Leyen's pledge to take EU customs to the next level, the EU Single Window initiative forms part of an ambitious project to modernise customs controls over the coming decade. Plans aim to further facilitate trade, improve safety and compliance checks, support the digital and green transitions, and reduce the administrative burden for national authorities and companies. Today's agreement between the co-legislators strengthens the Commission's original proposal, recognising in particular the non-fiscal responsibilities of customs authorities. It also serves as a stepping-stone towards our ambitious legislative reform programme to ready the Customs Union for the challenges of the future. Following the recent recommendations for a more modern and efficient Customs Union put forward by the EU's Wise Persons' Group on the future of Customs, the Commission will table a package of proposals to modernise the Customs Union by the end of the year.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, said: “Today's agreement is a welcome step forward in our efforts to digitalise and streamline EU trade flows. The EU Single Window for Customs will improve our business environment and make life easier for traders and operators by reducing their administrative burden. Once this agreement is approved by the European Parliament and Council, it will make goods clearance more efficient and effective across the EU's Member States and take our Customs Union to the next level in the digital age.”

Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, said: “This agreement on the Single Window environment for customs opens the way to more streamlined information-sharing between national authorities and with traders. It will mean less red tape and will give a boost to our model of trade based on trust and compliance. In short, it is an important step forward in this Commission's efforts to take the Customs Union to the next level.”

The EU Single Window will enhance cooperation and coordination between customs and other non-customs authorities at EU borders, allowing for automatic verification of non-customs formalities such as those related to health and safety, the environment and product compliance. It will digitalise and streamline processes for goods entering and leaving the EU, so that businesses will no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals as they do now. Finally, verification will ensure EU-wide quota management and reduce risks of fraud in the import or export of sensitive goods, such as high emission F-gas products.

Further background

Currently, importing goods into the Union involves many different authorities in charge of different policy areas, such as health and safety, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, cultural heritage and market surveillance and product compliance. As a result, businesses have to submit information, often paper-based, to several different authorities, each with their own portal and procedures. This is cumbersome and time-consuming for traders and reduces the capacity of authorities to act in a joined-up way to combat risks.

Today's agreement is the next step in creating a digital framework for enhanced cooperation between all border authorities, through one EU Single Window Environment for Customs. The EU Single Window will at first enhance exchanges between governments and enable businesses and traders to retrieve documents and customs authorisations from Union non-customs systems such as TRACESmaking them automatically and digitally available to national customs. A second phase will put in place the business-to-government scheme which allows traders to provide data in one single portal in an individual Member State, thus skipping the need for them to use non-customs systems, and reducing duplication, time and costs. Customs and other authorities will then be able to collectively use this data, allowing for a fully coordinated approach to goods clearance and a clearer overview at EU level of the goods that are entering or leaving the EU. 

Each year, the Custom Union facilitates trade in goods worth over €3.5 trillion. Efficient customs clearance and controls are essential to allow trade to flow smoothly while also protecting EU citizens, businesses and the environment. Both the COVID-19 crisis and the EU's unprecedented sanctions against Russia have highlighted the importance of having agile yet robust customs and non-customs processes. This will become ever more important as trade volumes keep increasing and new challenges related to digitalisation and e-commerce, such as new forms of fraud, emerge.

Next steps

Following its formal adoption by the European Parliament and the Council, the intergovernmental component of the Single Window will come into effect by 2025, while the business-to-government scheme will be accessible at a later stage.

For more information

For more information, see our previous Q&A and factsheet.

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