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Taxation and Customs Union

History of the EU Customs Union

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July 1968

All customs duties and restrictions are lifted between the six member countries of the European Economic Community - EEC. A common customs tariff replaces national customs duties on products from the rest of the world. Trade between the countries multiplies. Investment and economic growth increases.


The Single Administrative Document replaces hundreds of national customs declaration forms. At the same time, the common transit system is created.

These two elements pave the way for standardised procedures in the Europe region and beyond.


EU adopts the Community Customs Code. It assembles for the very first time in a code the provisions of customs legislation that were previously contained in a large number of Community regulations and directives - a job of fundamental importance for the internal market and a paramount simplification for traders and customs.


Free movement of goods is now a reality. No more customs formalities at internal borders of the EU. No more long queues for commercial vehicles for goods to be declared and/or checked at border crossings. For the first time, uniform customs legislation becomes directly applicable in all Member States of the EU.


Integrated tariff of the European Union in digital format (TARIC) with daily transmissions to the EU Member States is launched. It replaces the first TARIC database with weekly transmissions since 1987.


EU-Turkey Customs Union enters into force.


New computerised transit system becomes operational. It is the first European customs system which used electronic declaration and processing.


10 new countries join the EU and the EU Customs Union. This marks the largest expansion of the EU Customs Union in its history.


EU launches the Customs Risk Management system that connects more than 800 customs offices and provides a digital platform to exchange information about risks and irregularities. EU addresses EU customs security through legislation providing for advance cargo information, risk based controls and measures aiming at end-to-end supply chain security, including through use of technology.


EU introduces the Authorised Economic Operator status. It is an internationally recognised quality mark indicating that a company’s role in the international supply chain is secure, and that customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant.

It is voluntary, and it gives quicker access to certain simplified customs procedures and in some cases the right to ‘fast-track’ shipments through some customs and safety and security procedures.


Customs becomes a major actor for increased security in the EU. Common risk criteria for security and safety start to apply to all goods crossing the EU borders, which ensures an equal protection of EU citizens and member states.


The Union Customs Code takes effect. It further modernises and streamlines customs procedures through further harmonisation of legislation applicable throughout the EU. It also introduces a number of IT systems to support harmonised implementation of customs rules and to reduce the administrative burden on legitimate trade Full implementation of the IT systems is foreseen in steps, with the majority of systems being available by 31 December 2020 and a few further systems being upgraded or deployed in the period up to 2025.


EU Customs Union celebrates 50 years since its establishment in 1968.

It has expanded over that time from its initial six member countries and comprises 28 members in 2018.

It is currently the largest trading block, in global terms, so the EU Customs Union is a heavyweight in international trade. Its negotiating position thus outweighs that of any single Member State acting on its own.

Historical A/V material

The history of the Customs Union comes to life through image and sound.

1968 - Elimination of customs duties

1969 - Europa-Union 1969 campaign

1970 - Tourism and the EEC

1972 - News report from the Belgian-French-German borders

1972 - News report from the Belgian-French-German borders 2

1977 - Customs Union

1981 - Customs control for textile imports to Antwerp

1981 - Community exports to Japan

1984 - Customs controls and formalities: transit

1984 - Customs controls and formalities: veterinary checks

1984 - Customs controls and formalities: customs clearance

1992 - Customs Information System