Serbian Customs reform progress highlighted at meeting with business and political leaders

22 November 2010

Serbian Customs reform progress highlighted at meeting with business and political leaders

Belgrade, 18-19 November 2010


At the invitation of Director General Predrag Petronijević of the Serbia Customs administration, WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, visited Belgrade on 18 and 19 November 2010. He had a series of meetings with the top management of Customs, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Minister of Finance to discuss recent progress in Customs reform which received a positive assessment from business and also from the European Union.

After a briefing on recent developments in Customs from the top management team at Customs headquarters, Secretary General Mikuriya paid a visit to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. Its President Milos Bugarin and his colleagues confirmed that Customs had changed its approach over the past few years from a repressive image to one embracing facilitation for business based on risk management. He appreciated that the WCO had chosen the Customs-business partnership as its theme for 2010 as it encouraged business to further improve its cooperation with Customs. In terms of human resource development, the Chamber of Commerce believed that it was necessary to upgrade the capacity of business to improve its compliance and therefore appreciated the training offered to business by Customs, including e-learning in the Serbian language. Having set accession to the EU as its ultimate goal, the business representatives welcomed the recent EU Progress Report validating Serbian Customs progress and the fact that it was on the right track with its reform programme.

Secretary General Mikuriya also visited the border crossing post at Batrovci and observed the integrated border management initiative where Customs work in close cooperation with the border police and border post officials on the Croatian side. Serbia has been investing in the refurbishment of its border posts thanks to EU funding and has been activating information exchange with neighbouring countries. Since Serbia is strategically located on the Balkan route for the movement of goods, it is important to strengthen regional cooperation in intercepting narcotics, counterfeits and other hazardous goods carried by passengers and trucks, both for import and in transit, at its borders.

Minister of Finance, Diana Dragutinović, and State Secretary, Miodrag Djidic, welcomed the Secretary General at the Ministry of Finance where they discussed the evolving role of Customs, its organizational model, and integrity. The Secretary General gave a briefing on current developments relating to Customs strategy and organizational issues around the world. In order to improve integrity, he stressed the importance of addressing the human resource issue, including the provision of decent working conditions and performance-based promotion and disciplinary actions, in addition to simplifying procedures by developing and implementing an information technology strategy.

At a later press conference the Secretary General stated, "Borders divide, Customs connects, and that is what Serbian Customs has been doing on the borders; Serbian Customs contributed to connecting its national economy with those of neighbouring countries and integrating its market into the global trading system while protecting the health and safety of consumers from illicit trade." He added that, "The Progress Report of the European Community for 2010 confirms that the administrative capacity of Serbian Customs has been further strengthened and specifies that Serbia is already well on the way to meeting the EU Acquis and remains committed to reform in the area of Customs."