Customs authorities across the EU are aiming to become the most modern administrations of all in order to serve all Europeans better. In the next ten years, two major initiatives will be phased in.

The electronic customs plan will establish secure, interoperable IT systems for exchanges of data and should lead to a paperless customs system by 2012. European citizens will benefit from a more secure flow of goods, greater protection and less bureaucracy. And modernisation of the Community Customs Code is the legal side of electronic customs. It will pave the way for electronic exchanges of information between national customs and other authorities, which will boost the fight against dangerous products and increase consumer protection.

Customs authorities in the European Union use the most modern ICT (information and communication technologies) and equipment to perform their tasks. Information is analysed mainly by automated systems which enable customs to single out high-risk shipments for checking. High-tech scanning equipment enables customs officers to have a look inside containers carried by sea without completely unloading them.

A European network of customs laboratories is working on a common quality policy that will ensure uniform interpretation of new technical standards across the EU. For example, the laboratories are cooperating on joint use of specialised equipment. They are also sharing their scientific knowledge and test results, to make sure that tests carried out on products in one EU country will not have to be repeated in another. The customs laboratories’ role is constantly expanding to meet new challenges in the areas of health, environmental monitoring and combating counterfeiting.