Electronic customs is a major development for the EU's Customs Union.
The project, initiated by the European Commission, aims to replace paper-format customs procedures with EU-wide electronic procedures to create a more efficient and modern customs environment.
The project has two objectives:
- Enhancing security at the EU's external borders,
- Facilitating trade.
As such, it benefits both businesses and citizens.
Background and related legislation
The Customs Union is one of the pillars of the European Union and is at the heart of the internal market. It has provided a stable foundation for economic integration and growth in Europe for nearly five decades.
Since the completion of the Customs Union on 1 July 1968, one and a half years earlier than planned in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the role played by customs and the working methods and processes have changed substantially to accommodate to the increasing volumes of world trade, rapidly changing technologies and business models and persistent transnational crime and security threat.
Paper format customs procedures have been gradually replaced by electronic ones over the last two decades with a view to enhancing competitiveness of the European businesses and improving simultaneously safety and security checks.
The first step to the EU-wide electronic exchange of customs declarations was established with New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) started in 1997.
A few years later the e-Customs Decision set the basic framework for creating a paperless environment for customs and trade, laying down the objectives, as well as the structure, means and major deadlines.
Subsequently, the Commission drafted a plan which sets down the vision, objectives, the strategic framework and the milestones to implement the electronic customs initiative, the Multi-annual Strategic Plan (MASP).
The Union Customs Code (UCC) adoption and application as of 1 May 2016 completes the shift by customs to a paperless and fully electronic and interoperable environment with core values of simplicity, service and speed. The UCC represents the new framework Regulation on the rules and procedures for customs throughout the EU and covers most of the projects that were previously introduced by the e-Customs Decision. The main project remaining as being covered by the e-Customs Decision is the EU Single Window environment for customs initiative.
Multi-Annual Strategic Plan for electronic Customs (MASP-C)
EU-wide electronic customs systems developments are set out in the EU’s “Multi-Annual Strategic Plan for electronic Customs” (see below) for the creation of a European electronic customs environment. These plans are consistent with the operational and legislative projects and developments already scheduled or underway in the areas of customs.
The MASP-C also provides interested parties with an overview and with background information on projects and key issues related to the evolution of the electronic customs initiative and the present state of play.
- Multi-Annual Strategic Plan for electronic Customs - MASP Revision 2023
- Annex 1: Detailed Timetable
- Annex 2: Consolidated Project Fiches
- Annex 3: Governance Scheme
- Annex 4: EU Customs Business Process Modelling Policy
- Annex 5: IT Strategy
- Annex 6: Change Log
- MASP-C Planning Overview
Under the electronic customs decision, a consolidated evaluation report on the progress made by the Member States and the Commission in the electronic customs initiative is prepared by the Commission's Taxation and Customs Union Directorate General every year on the basis of national reports.
Contact for more information: TAXUD-E-CUSTOMSec [dot] europa [dot] eu
Digitalisation of cultural goods
The illegal trade in cultural goods causes direct and indirect damage to the society as a whole, but specifically to the cultural heritage of the countries of origin as well as to the legitimate trade. Thanks to digital technologies, customs and other competent authorities could better control such imports in a way that enables to detect and prevent illegal trade. Regulation (EU) 2019/880 on the introduction and the import of cultural goods lays down uniform rules governing the conditions and procedures for the import of certain cultural goods entering the customs territory of the Union from third countries. As from 28 June 2025 at the latest, the import of specific categories of cultural goods will be subject to certain requirements (import licences for archaeological objects and parts of monuments that have been dismembered and importer statements for other categories of cultural goods). The introduction of the new system will allow for the collection, management and exchange of all information related to the import of cultural goods into the EU territory, automating the application procedure for import licences, the submission of importer statements to customs and the storage and exchange of information between the authorities of the Member States in charge of implementing the Regulation. For the purposes of Regulation 2019/880, Commission Implementing Regulation 2021/1079 lays out the detailed arrangements for certain exceptions to import documentary requirements.
- Eurobarometer survey to evaluate the progress in the transition from paper-based to electronic customs systems in the Member States (16 April to 9 May 2014).
- 2014 evaluation report on the “Electronic Customs Decision” + Annex