EU to slash customs red tape for e-business

The EC has promised a root-and-branch reform of customs regulations to meet the challenge of e-business.

The EC has promised a root-and-branch reform of customs regulations to meet the challenge of e-business.

Keith Nuthall

Brussels wants to ensure that customs forces are not overwhelmed by high workloads and are able to effectively fight fraud.

EC customs commissioner Frits Bolkestein said, "The rapidly changing world trading environment means we need to step up our efforts to tackle fraud on a co-ordinated basis, cutting administrative red tape for business."

The EC has published a formal discussion paper on a new strategy for the EU customs union. This calls for the development of streamlined procedures for businesses known to be legitimate, freeing officers to deal with unreliable traders.

The paper suggests the funding of additional training to ensure that customs forces have up-to-date knowledge of IT. It also proposes the development of a new IT strategy, which would limit the use of paper documents within customs procedures, better enabling officials to incorporate e-commerce trade with their work.

Other suggestions include boosting co-operation between national forces and identifying new high-tech equipment that will be needed on the EU frontier.

Meanwhile, a joint EU-EFTA, (European Free Trade Area) committee has approved simplified and fraud-proof rules for the new computerised customs transit system, which allows goods to travel across Europe, without freight operations having to deal with customs formalities for every time they cross a national border.

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