Accession preparation: the case of Latvian customs
Decision to join the European Union substantially affects the work of customs, since the functioning of customs in accordance with the standards set by the EU is one of the preconditions for the accession. Customs will have to protect not only the domestic market and consumers’ interests but also the interests of the EU consumers and market.
The Latvian Customs Business Strategy for the years 2002 – 2005, which was recently approved, was developed on the basis of the Customs Union Strategy for the EU prepared by the European Commission. The Customs Business Strategy points out the main directions of the work of customs service and identifies the activities that will ensure its capability to carry out its duties in the interests of all the member states after Latvia’s accession to the EU.
Legal environment: legal provisions on customs have to be harmonised with the EU legislation, since the Customs Union is one of the foundations of the European Union and the crossing of an external border opens the way to all member states. After accession to the EU the Community Customs Code and its implementing regulations will be the main documents regulating customs operations, since the EU legal acts will have higher legal power than the relevant national legislation.
Participation in the structures of the European Commission: in order to participate in the decision-making on customs issues on an equal basis in the EU, the Latvian Customs Service has to be ready to participate effectively in the corresponding committees and workgroups of the European Commission. This is especially important with regard to DG TAXUD where workgroups on transit, tariff, value and other issues prepare amendments to the EU customs legislation. There is a necessity to draft an action plan and a curriculum for the training of Customs experts in relevant customs issues and language practice.
Control of the EU external border: proper customs control is necessary for the protection of EU financial interests, the internal market and society, as the Eastern border of Latvia, as well as airports, sea ports and reception/delivery railroad points will become an external border of the EU upon accession. Latvian customs will have to take on responsibilities that have been carried out by the member states with long experience in the application of the EU legal provisions. Upon accession to the EU customs will also have to undertake the control of agricultural goods that are subject to the Common Agricultural Policy. It will be impossible to carry out this task without the necessary technical equipment and properly trained personnel.
Compatibility with EU Information Systems: only using appropriate upto- date information systems can ensure sufficient operational capacity. Already before joining the EU they have to be compatible with several IT systems that ensure exchange of information between the European Commission and member states as well as among the member states themselves. A system of electronic processing of customs declarations should be operational in all customs points and it should provide facilities for trade to carry out all the necessary customs functions. The use of IT systems in simplified customs and declaration procedures facilitates the work for both customs and trade, it fosters trade, simplifies customs formalities, reduces the number of documents submitted to customs, and reduces time and costs.
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