Customs Union: Upcoming Commission proposals will propose far-reaching improvements for traders, as suggested by today’s ECA special report | EC Press

The Commission welcomes today’s Special Report by the European Court of Auditors which looks at the EU’s customs facilitation programme for reliable traders – commonly known as the Authorised Economic Operator – or AEO – programme.

Companies participating in the AEO programme get a number of benefits that save them time and money, such as fewer controls and priority treatment at customs clearance. Member State authorities benefit because it increases safety and security, while helping them to collect customs duties and VAT more efficiently and effectively. Currently, more than 18,000 companies have been authorised as AEOs in the EU, accounting for just over 70% of imports and exports. While any EU business can apply to become an AEO, they must fulfil a number of criteria to be admitted to the programme such as compliance with customs legislation and taxation rules, financial solvency, transparent supply chains and proven competency and safety and security criteria.

In its report today, the ECA points to a solid, robust and well-run programme which delivers on its overall goals and enjoys a satisfaction rate of over 80% from traders. However, the ECA does highlight some shortcomings in the AEO programme, such as an uneven implementation across all Member States, which results in an unlevel playing field for AEO traders in terms of the benefits they enjoy. The ECA also highlights the lack of a common EU approach to measuring the programme’s performance and its ‘untapped potential’ to support EU businesses and Member State authorities alike.

As announced in the Commission Work Programme, the Commission will soon deliver its proposals to reform EU Customs – the biggest such overhaul since the EU Customs Union was established in 1968. These reform proposals will address many of the ECA’s recommendations and create a more level playing field for businesses. Building on the current AEO programme, the proposals will put forward a new, data-led vision for the relationship between customs and business. This new framework will better reflect the realities of modern trade, the advances made possible by digitalisation and artificial intelligence, as well as the need for simpler and more effective customs controls and procedures.