Meeting of the Customs Union Group of the Council of the European Union

12 January 2011

Meeting of the Customs Union Group of the Council of the European Union

Brussels, 12 January 2011

Report

At the invitation of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the first meeting of the Customs Union Group of the EU Council under the Hungarian Presidency on 11 January 2011 to present the main priorities and activities of the WCO in 2011.

Ambassador Ágnes Vargha of Hungary opened the session, stressing the importance of Customs in the political and economic spheres including its role in strengthening competitiveness and border management. Underlying the critical cooperative ties between the EU and the WCO, she expressed Hungary’s support for WCO activities in its capacity as current holder of the EU Council Presidency.

Echoing the Ambassador’s remarks, Secretary General Mikuriya wished to see continued synergy between the strategic directions of the EU and the WCO. Referring to the recent air cargo incident, he emphasized the need for international cooperation in addressing cargo security through WCO instruments and programmes, based on a risk management approach. In this connection, the EU security rule on advance electronic data, introduced at the beginning of this year, was highlighted as a good example of implementing the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards. Another example was the Safe Sea Transport Lane (SSTL) initiative between China and EU with the use of the WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) as a secure IT system for data exchange. This could be seen as a pilot project for the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs (GNC) concept which was under development at the WCO.

Recognizing the important contribution by the EU and its Member States to the WCO, Secretary General Mikuriya encouraged the EU and its Member States to actively participate in key areas such as trade facilitation including cooperation with the WTO, the protection of intellectual property rights and capacity building.Explaining the steps for the WCO to realize its Customs in the 21st Century (C21) vision, Secretary General Mikuriya highlighted the synergy between the EU Modernized Customs Code and C21. Finally, he referred to knowledge as the theme for this year’s International Customs Day and appreciated Hungary’s initiative to hold a knowledge-sharing seminar on border control to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the WCO Regional Training Centre in Budapest next month.

Valuing the existing close cooperation with the WCO, Director General Walter Deffa of the EC’s TAXUD supported international cooperation through the WCO.Referring to the recent air cargo incident, he underscored the wider scope and potential of Customs’ role in offering assistance in other policy areas.He also highlighted the WCO’s contribution in making available its IT infrastructure for the SSTL project.