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Taxation and Customs Union


The EU follows a multi-layered risk based approach regarding Customs Security. There are various activities and initiatives that complement each other, a number of different actors involved, from the governmental side, the private sector, international organisations, and major trading partners at different levels. With this approach existing security gaps can be closed effectively, duplication of work or conflicting responsibilities are avoided and the balance between security and trade facilitation can be ensured.

Supply Chain security

Customs main focus is on the security of international supply chains. There are two ways of addressing the security of international supply chains. The first is to look at the flow of the transaction/shipment from end to end. Measures to secure the supply chain include the submission of advanced data in electronic form, risk assessment and risk mitigation by customs authorities. However there is a second way to look at it from a system-based point of view, e.g. if the parties involved are trusted entities, in particular AEO or participants of programmes by other governmental authorities, e.g. Civil Aviation security concept of the “secure supply chain”). With a combination of these two approaches security gaps can be closed to a large extent.

Modes of Transport

Customs security includes all modes of transport crossing the border into the EU. Measures to strengthen the security of the supply chain take into account the particularities of the different modes of transport.

One of the measures affecting all modes of transport was the introduction of the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) by regulations 648/2005 and 1875/2006. Operators have to provide advance cargo information for shipments into the EU through the lodging of an electronic declaration. This requirement entered into force on 1 January 2011. For the lodgement and processing of the ENS an IT system, the ICS (Import Control System) was implemented.

Due to significant weaknesses of the original ENS concept, in particular regarding data quality and timely availability, it was overhauled in the Union Customs Code and its Implementing and Delegated Act. Major changes include the option of multiple filing, filing by different actors in the supply chain and in different data sets at different points of time. These changes will be implemented when all the necessary IT systems will be available.


In the area of Maritime transport DG TAXUD cooperates with with relevant authorities (DG MOVE, Member States Transport authorities) e.g. on the alignment of AEO and ISPS Code, major trading partners (US on CSI, China on SSTL[link]), international organisations (WCO and IMO) and industry stakeholders (World Shipping Council, CLECAT, FIATA, TIACA).

For Maritime Transport the EU had implemented the “24 hour rule” for longhaul containerized maritime shipments in regulations 648/2005 and 1875/2006. This implies that the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) has to be sent to Customs 24 hours before the goods are loaded in the port of departure. For short-see shipping and other modes of maritime transport shorter deadlines apply. According to regulations 648/2005 and 1875/2006 the ENS has to be lodged by the carrier. This requirement was revised, following an evaluation by risk management experts and under the UCC other parties in the supply chain (e.g. freight forwarders, consignors) will be enabled to logde the ENS or parts of the ENS when all the necessary IT systems will be available.


In the air mode of transport major developments resulted from the Yemen incident in October 2010 where improvised explosive devices concealed in a shipment going from Yemen via the EU to the US was detected.

The main development in the responsibility of Customs was related to the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS). In regulation 648/2005 and 1875/2006 the deadline for the ENS was 4 hours before the arrival of the plane at the first airport in the EU for long-haul flights or at "wheels up" for short-haul flights.

After the Yemen incident, it was intended to shift this timeline from pre-arrival to pre-loading. However, first discussions with trade showed that it would be very challenging to submit the whole data set to Customs at that early stage. Therefore the EU tested the submission of a reduced set of 7+1 data, following the US ACAS approach, beginning with the express couriers (2012), followed by postal operators (start in 2012) and the traditional air cargo business model – PRECISE (2013).

The pilot activities were carried out in close coordination with international partners, especially the USA and Canada who have been conducting similar pilots, ACAS (US) and PACT (CAN) and with relevant international organisations (WCO/UPU/ ICAO).

The pilots/study focused on the feasibility of the pre-loading submission of the “7+1 data”, a subset of the ENS. However, the necessary subsequent submission of the rest of the ENS to Customs within the currently applicable time-limit, i.e. 4 hours before arrival, was taken into account as well.

Whereas the first (pre-loading) data set is necessary to address immediate air cargo security risks (bomb in the box) the subsequent data set (pre-arrival) is used to address other safety and security risks, as currently. The EU pilots demonstrated that the data tested was sufficient for a first layer of risk analysis aimed at immediate air cargo security risks (bomb in the box).

During the pilots the EU developed protocols for risk mitigation measures in case a risk has been detected during the risk assessment of the pre-loading data. The following three risk mitigation measures are forseen:

  • Request for additional information
  • Request for high risk cargo screening results/additional high risk cargo screening; the existing processes and mechanisms of Aviation Security such as the High risk cargo screening will be used
  • Do Not Load

The results of the pilots were the basis for the ENS provisions in the UCC Implementing and Delegated Acts. The EU concept of advanced data submission is fully in line with the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards (2005) which was revised in 2015 specifically for that purpose. It will be implemented when all the necessary IT systems will be available.

Road and Rail

Both Road and Rail transport into the EU are covered by the ENS requirement. The EU is in discussion with main stakeholders in this area. The changes foreseen so far are simple related to the introduction of the new data model and will be implemented when all the necessary IT systems will be available.

Specific trade segments

Postal shipments

In Regulations 648/2005 and 1875/2006 postal items were exempted from the ENS submission requirement. This was due to the fact that at this time postal processes were still mainly paper-based.

After the Yemen Incident of October 2010, discussions between postal operators and customs authorities were initiated on how to use advanced data submissions in the postal model for security purposes. In 2012, at the UPU Congress in Doha, Article 9 of the UPU Convention on postal security was changed to include advanced data submission for risk analysis purposes.

Since 2010 EU has conducted extensive work with the postal community and international partners (US, Canada, WCO, ICAO, UPU, KPG), including during the EU postal pilot. In the Postal Pilot (2012-2014), where 8 EU Member States Customs Authorities and Postal Operators participated, the EU assessed implementation options for advance electronic data submission. Hereby global postal standards such as the electronic customs declaration CN23 and the relevant UPU messaging standards (ITMATT, CUSITM, CUSRSP) and took into account the specific mail data flows (i.e. between origin and destination posts, and between destination post and Customs in the Member State of destination) were used.

The results of the Postal Pilot are reflected in the Union Customs Code (UCC) and its Delegated and Implementing acts. The concept of advance electronic data for postal items has been endorsed by the Universal Postal Union (UPU). It will be implemented when all the necessary IT systems will be available.


Over the last ten years e-commerce has been growing exponentially and this trend will continue over the next years. E-commerce is selling and buying goods over the internet. The delivery to the customers takes place by express couriers or postal operators.

E-commerce poses challenges to customs authorities due to high volumes of small, often low value, consignments, and, in part time-sensitivity. A variety of customs tasks and procedures are affected by e-commerce, including control operations, risk management, revenue collection and customs procedures.

From a security point of view the challenges of e-commerce are covered with the UCC provisions on the ENS. Data will be sent in advance and be risk analysed before the goods are loaded onboard of an airplane before coming into the EU. At the same time the electronic submission of data for postal consignments should be used to provide facilitation regarding customs procedures and import duty collection. It will be implemented when all the necessary IT systems will be available.

Security-sensitive goods

Security-sensitive goods include dual-use goods or chemicals that pose a risk of being diverted from the legal trade for illegal misuse.

An example is the Global Shield initiative which was launched by the WCO in November 2010 to prevent smuggling and illicit diversion of precursor chemicals that could be used to build Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).

International cooperation on security

Regarding Customs Security the EU cooperates with major trading partners and international organisations as WCO, ICAO, IMO and UPU.

The EU has signed agreements on supply chain security with main partner countries in the area of customs security that provide the legal basis for Mutual Recognition of AEO. Most of those agreements, e.g. with US, China, Japan, Canada go beyond mutual recognition; they focus on improving supply chain security, joint risk rules, creating joint standards regarding security controls etc.

  • Agreement with the People's Republic of China on Customs Cooperation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs, (Official journal)

The EU has concluded agreements with Switzerland and Norway that waive the obligation of traders to provide customs with Entry and Exit Summary declarations prior to the import and export in bilateral trade between the EU and Switzerland and Norway. Those agreements entered into force on 1 July 2009.

Switzerland (OJ L 199 of 31 July 2009)

Norway (OJ L 232 of 3 September 2009)

An important amendment of those agreements with Switzerland and Norway as regards the customs security measures was adopted by the respective Joint Committees on 15 March 2021. The original Agreements of 2009 have been amended in order to maintain a high level of security and safety at external borders of Contracting Parties and to keep the equivalence of the customs security measures in trade with third countries. The amended agreements reflect key developments of the EU legislation relevant to the risk management and security, mainly as regards the deployment of the Import Control System 2 (ICS2) of the EU.

Both amended agreements are applicable from 15 March 2021 and create a basis for Switzerland and Norway to join, alongside the EU Member States, operations of the ICS2 as of 15 March 2021. The ICS2 is considered as an essential EU instrument for managing entry security and safety border controls in the customs field, supporting the EU’s customs pre-arrival security and safety programme.

Switzerland and Norway will implement customs security measures equivalent to those in the EU. This will ensure both the smooth flows of goods between both countries and the EU, and thus facilitation of the legitimate trade, and a high level of security in the supply chain. Switzerland and Norway will also apply equivalent standards for the Authorised Economic Operators, including security/safety standards and facilitation measures in respect of security-related customs controls.

Switzerland (OJ L 152, 3.5.2021, p. 1 – 32)

Norway (OJ L 226, 25.6.2021, p. 41 – 72)


Cooperation at WCO level regarding customs security takes place in the WCO SAFE Working Group that takes place twice a year and its various ad-hoc subgroups. The SAFE Working Group is tasked with the continuous update of the SAFE Framework in 3-year review cycles. The last review cycle was finalized in 2015. Main changes relate to the advanced data requirements in air cargo security and the addition of a third pillar to the SAFE Framework, dedicated to the cooperation between customs and other authorities.

Following the Yemen incident 2010 the main focus regarding Customs security at WCO level has been on Air Cargo Security. In 2011 the Technical experts group on Air Cargo was created to improve the cooperation between Customs and Civil Aviation authorities, and to harmonise international regulatory frameworks of WCO and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation), in particular the WCO SAFE framework, and the ICAO Chicago Convention, Annex 17 (Aviation Security).

In 2014 a Joint ICAO-WCO Working Group on Advanced Cargo Information (JWGACI) was set up with participants from 8 Customs and 8 Civil Aviation authorities and industry stakeholders. The objective of the group is the development of global standards for the implementation of pre-loading advanced cargo information (PLACI) by Customs and Civil Aviation Security authorities. Currently in its phase 2 the group is tasked with the development of a concept of operations.