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Role of customs laboratories

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The European Customs Union celebrated its 40 years in 2008. Its scientific arm, the European customs laboratories, play an essential role in the fight against illegal trafficking and fraud by providing the scientific expertise needed to enforce European regulations in all matters relating to customs tariff, classification and nomenclature. While some were established relatively recently, most of the laboratories involved in customs & excise work in the European Union have a long history. The oldest were created in the mid-19th century - starting in 1848 with the customs laboratory in Vienna - and the majority of the laboratories came into being before the mid-20th: many therefore have at least a century of experience in customs & excise work. Over time the role of customs laboratories has evolved with changes in the trade environment and it is no longer just about classic customs & excise issues. Determining the authenticity and origin of products, detecting illegal imports like narcotics and drug precursors, protecting consumers against dangerous goods, safeguarding the environment and helping to combat terrorism are all challenges that customs, and customs laboratories, are increasingly called on to face in the modern era. Customs is, after all, the ideal place to control and intercept all kinds of goods that are on the move.

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The services provided by customs laboratories are often crucial in dealing with "spectacular" cases that come up from time to time - be it fraud cases of great financial significance or emerging public health & safety risks. Their work, however, goes on behind the scenes on a daily basis, as one of the unseen faces of customs and border management. Yet this does not make the task any less important. By supporting the work of customs, the customs laboratories help to protect society, whether it is through establishing the correct classification of goods for revenue purposes or through protecting people against unsafe or dangerous products. The customs laboratories are an essential element in ensuring border integrity. These laboratories are coordinated inside the Group of European Customs Laboratories.