The European Business Council for Africa

Today, the Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a single window for customs which sets the appropriate conditions for digital collaboration between customs and partner competent authorities. The aim is to make international trade easier, shorten customs clearance times and reduce the risk of fraud. It will also help reduce the administrative burden for traders.

Efficient customs clearance and controls are essential to allow trade to flow smoothly while also protecting EU citizens, businesses and the environment. Once fully implemented, businesses will no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals. The single window environment will allow customs and other authorities to automatically verify that the goods in question comply with EU requirements and that the necessary formalities have been completed.

More than 60 non-customs EU acts as well as national non-customs legislation in areas such as health and safety, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, international heritage and market surveillance need to be enforced at external borders. This requires additional documents on top of customs declarations and affects hundreds of millions movements of goods each year.

Member states’ authorities involved in goods clearance at the EU’s external borders will be able to access and exchange electronic information submitted by traders. The single window environment for customs will also support the automated verification of non-customs formalities for goods entering or leaving the EU. This means that manual documentary controls to verify certain non-customs formalities will no longer be necessary.

The new rules are expected to boost the smooth flow of cross-border trade and will help reduce the administrative burden for traders, particularly by saving time and making clearance simpler and more automated.

The provisional agreement reached today is subject to approval by the Council and the European Parliament before going through the formal adoption procedure.

Background and next steps
The Commission came forward with the proposal establishing the EU single window environment for customs and amending regulation (EU) No 952/2013 on 29 October 2020. The Council agreed its negotiating mandate on 15 December 2021. Negotiations between the co-legislators ended in the provisional agreement reached today.

This initiative will be implemented based on interfaces with existing import, export or transit systems at national level, rather than introducing entirely new IT platforms. This is an ambitious undertaking that will entail investment at both EU and member state level, with gradual implementation expected to take place over several years.

Member states will invest in transforming processes and IT systems, so that they can fully reap the benefits of the single window. Member states will set up national single window environments, through which businesses will be able to upload the information related to the goods they are bringing in or out of the EU. These national single window environments will then link up through EU CSW-CERTEX with the EU databases managing non-customs formalities, so that all relevant authorities can access the relevant data and collaborate more easily on border checks. This is expected to create a much more streamlined, coordinated approach to goods clearance.