Taxation and Customs Union

Electronic customs

General information

The electronic customs project initiated by the European Commission aims to replace paper format customs procedures with EU wide electronic ones, thus creating a more efficient and modern customs environment. The project's dual objective is to enhance security at the EU's external borders and to facilitate trade. It should therefore benefit both businesses and citizens.

Electronic customs is a major development for the EU's Customs Union. Its genesis is briefly described below. The following page outlines electronic customs legislation force.

The initiative is composed of various projects, most of which are now handled in the Union Customs Code. The main project remaining as being covered by the e-Customs Decision is the initiative about the EU Single Window environment for customs.

A Eurobarometer survey to evaluate the progress in the transition from paper-based to electronic customs systems in the Member States was carried out between 16 April and 9 May 2014.

Genesis of the project

The customs union is one of the pillars of the European Union and is at the heart of the internal market. Current legislation on customs procedures and processes is rather complex and is still based on paper declarations, and although all Member States have electronic customs systems, they are not inter-connected. The Commission considers that, with simplified customs legislation, streamlined customs processes and procedures and convergence of IT systems, traders would save money and time in their business transactions with customs. This would enhance the competitiveness of European businesses and thereby advance the main goals of the EU strategy for growth and jobs. In addition, these changes would improve safety and security checks, which would benefit all citizens.

The first step to the EU-wide electronic exchange of customs declarations was established with New Computerised Transit System started in 1997. As a contribution to the "e-government" programme, in July 2003, the Commission published its communication on a paperless environment for customs and trade (COM/2003/452 of 24/07/2003) which provided a vision of a modern customs service communicating electronically with trade. This vision was endorsed by the Council Resolution of December 5, 2003 (see Official Journal C 305) which called for a Multi-Annual Strategic Plan (see below) for the creation of a European electronic environment, consistent with the operational and legislative projects and developments already scheduled or underway in the areas of customs and indirect taxation.

Subsequently, the Commission drafted a plan which sets down the vision, objectives, the strategic framework and the milestones to implement the electronic customs initiative. The MASP is also intended to provide interested parties with a short overview and background information on projects and key issues related to the evolution of the electronic customs initiative and the present state of play.

Under the electronic customs decision, a consolidated report, evaluating the progress made by the Member States and the Commission in the electronic customs initiative is prepared by the Commission's Taxation and Customs Union Directorate General every year on the basis of national reports. See the reports for