Customs 2013 High Level Seminar on Customs Cooperation at the Eastern Border

24 octubre 2013

Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the Customs 2013 High-Level Seminar on Customs Cooperation at the Eastern Border held in Druskininkai, Lithuania on 24 and 25 October 2013. The Seminar was organized by the European Commission under the auspices of the Customs 2013 programme in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Lithuania represented by Mr. Antanas Sipavicius, Director General of Customs. Lithuania currently holds the Presidency of the European Union.

The Seminar, the latest in a series of events, focused on a variety of issues including the development of reliable and compatible authorized economic operator systems and risk management systems with a focus on security and safety, smuggling of high taxed goods and valuation fraud and the progression towards convergence of customs legislation and procedures. Discussions also centered on the development of safe and fluid trade lanes, the preparation of the accession of Eastern Border countries neighbouring the EU to the Common Transit convention and the improvement in cooperation and information sharing in the fight against illicit trade.

The Secretary General outlined the many relevant instruments and initiatives undertaken by the WCO in the areas under discussion, including the development of the Risk Management Compendium; IT systems such as CEN and CENcomm; the work undertaken and the recognition awarded the WCO in the context of the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; Globally Networked Customs and the pilot projects underway; and the collection of transit best practice for publication to increase Members’ knowledge. Secretary General Mikuriya also highlighted the role of Customs in facilitating trade and economic development. He further emphasized the importance of adopting common standards at borders and information sharing. Customs, he pointed out, ensured connectivity at borders, thereby ensuring an excellent service to meet the requirements of government and trade.

The Seminar witnessed the delivery of presentations and progress updates from Europe’s Eastern neighbours based on the conclusions of previous such events held in Budapest, Krakow and Kiev. Secretary General Mikuriya acknowledged the ongoing Customs reform based on the Revised Kyoto Convention and other WCO tools.  In addition, updates were provided on topics such as information exchange, transit and the fight against cigarette smuggling. In breakout sessions the delegates further enhanced their discussions on the three main areas of focus: safe and fluid trade lanes, transit and improving the fight against illicit traffic of high-taxed goods.

The participants adopted a Declaration agreeing on a method to implement specific actions and on concrete activities to ensure that the objectives of the Seminar would be achieved, including follow-up steps to be taken by the Member States, candidate countries, Eastern neighbouring countries and the EU Commission.

The delegates thanked the Lithuanian authorities for the excellent facilities provided for the Seminar and the warm welcome extended to participants.

The Secretary General, accompanied by the Director General of Lithuanian Customs and the Deputy Director General of Belarus Customs visited the Customs post on the border with Belarus at Radigardas to personally witness the many initiatives taken to improve facilities and working methods to ensure a smooth border crossing for trade and passenger vehicles. The Secretary General learned of the major infrastructural improvements undertaken on the Belarus side to improve facilities. Cross-border traffic has increased threefold in recent years due to the improvements implemented by both Administrations. The Secretary General expressed his appreciation for the improvements carried out to date and for the arrangements made for the visit.