Background

The European Commission has proposed a new initiative, the EU Single Window Environment for Customs, that aims to allow traders to electronically submit import and export information just once and make it easier for authorities involved in goods clearance to exchange that information. A Commission press release states that this proposal “launches an ambitious project to modernise border controls over the coming decade, in order to facilitate trade, improve safety and compliance checks, and reduce the administrative burden for companies.” Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, added that this is “the first step towards a fully paperless and integrated customs environment.”

Currently, the Commission states, the formalities required at the EU's external borders often involve different authorities in charge of different policy areas, such as health and safety, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, cultural heritage, and market surveillance and product compliance. Each authority has its own portal and procedures and businesses must submit information to each one, a procedure that is “cumbersome and time-consuming for traders and reduces the capacity of authorities to act in a joined-up way in combatting risks.”

By contrast, the Commission adds, the proposed single window will enable businesses and traders to provide data in one single portal in an individual EU member state, thereby reducing duplication, time, and costs. Customs and other authorities will then be able to automatically verify that the goods comply with EU requirements and the necessary formalities have been completed.

The Commission notes that creating a fully functioning single window environment in the EU will require firm commitment and buy-in from the many different authorities that work at EU borders. Dedicated and persistent investment will be needed from all member states, the Commission states, and authorities will need to work together to set up their single portals at the national level and invest in the digital transformation needed to make this work. They will need to agree on a governance framework, set up common IT solutions, create an automated and integrated set of processes that can be used to clear goods, agree on a way to harmonize data, and improve the processes for cooperating with authorities in partner countries.

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