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Press conference statement on the occasion of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the European Customs Union

Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Mary Veronica Tovšak Pleterski, Permanent Representation of the Republic of Slovenia to the EU


Madame Fourtou, Mr Kovacs,

On behalf of the Slovenian Presidency, let me say how honoured I am to be able to join you today at this press conference on the occasion of such a historic event as the 40th anniversary of the European Customs Union.

Customs union was one of the first milestones in the development of the EU and it continues to be one of the cornerstones underpinning the European Union and its internal market. The fact that internal borders have been abolished does not mean there is less work for customs officers. EU customs services process almost 20% of all world trade. This means that, every year, European ports and airports handle more than two billion tons of goods. Every year, European customs services handle more than 120 million customs declarations.

These were the reasons that led to modernising the EU Customs Code. The Slovenian Presidency has continued the work of earlier Presidencies and, together with the European Commission and the European Parliament, has been able to achieve the adoption of the fundamental legislative acts. The Decision of the European Parliament and Council on e-customs and the modernised Customs Code have already been published in the Official Journal: The e-customs Decision has already entered in force, whereas the modernised Customs Code will take effect in exactly one week’s time (on Tuesday 24 June). Both legislative acts introduce substantially simplified customs procedures, which will help boost the competitiveness of the European economy.

The best illustration of why modernising the Customs Code and gearing towards e-business are of such importance is the fact that, when fully in place – probably in 2009, the system is expected to save at least €2.5 billion a year. Given the additional costs of updating the system of €40 to 50 million a year until 2013, investment in the modernised customs system is expected to see a return as of 2010.

With the adoption of these two acts, European customs services are entering the twenty-first century: procedures will become faster and less costly, rules will be simplified and adapted to modern electronic ways of doing business in customs administrations and, as a result, European citizens will enjoy better protection and security.

It is extremely important that we have this new, modern customs legislation in place as we approach the 40th anniversary of customs union. The effective implementation of the legislation introduced during the Slovenian Presidency will also represent an important challenge for all the Presidencies following the Slovenian Presidency, the European Commission and Parliament.

I would also like to point out, lastly, that during the Slovenian Presidency – in May, to be precise – the EU Finance Ministers also adopted Council conclusions on the further development of the customs union. The Member States agreed that customs union plays a central role in supervising the import and export of goods and the entire supply chain. Customs services have to maintain a balance between, on the one hand, the safety and security of society and protecting the financial interests of the European Community and the Member States and, on the other, expanding legitimate trade and boosting the competitiveness of the European economy.

Thank you.


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Date: 17.06.2008