Free Zones experts discuss common challenges and solutions for the sustainable development of Free Zones in Europe

19 June 2024

The World Customs Organization (WCO), with the financial support of the Customs Cooperation Fund – China, and the technical assistance of two WCO experts from Germany and Türkiye, organized a Regional Workshop on Free Zones for the Europe Region in Skopje, North Macedonia from 10 to 14 June 2024. 21 participants from 14 Member administrations attended the event, which aimed to support Customs operations in Free Zones and provide capacity building resources for Members in the region.

The mission began with opening remarks from the WCO Regional Office for Capacity Building for the WCO Europe Region, Macedonian Customs, and Regional Training Centre in Skopje, highlighting the economic impact of Free Zones and the importance of Customs’ involvement in the sustainable development of Free Zones.

The workshop covered key elements of the Revised Kyoto Convention, the WCO Practical Guidance on Free Zones, and the SAFE Framework of Standards for adequate Customs procedures in Free Zones. These include Customs involvement in Free Zones, effective Customs on-site check and audit, the use of data and technologies, the origin determination of goods, and the expansion of the concept of Authorized Economic Operator to Free Zone stakeholders. Participants from Member administrations shared their national experiences and practices in Free Zones and discussed the benefits of secure and sustainable Free Zones from the Customs perspective.

Some of the highlights of the workshop were a session with the Free Zones stakeholders in North Macedonia and a study visit to a Technological Industrial Development Zone in Skopje. Speakers from the Free Zone Authority and the private sector operating in the zone explained the economic benefits and emphasized the smooth cooperation with Customs in the zone.

This mission provided a valuable opportunity for participants to better understand the situation of Free Zones in Europe and to enhance their capacity on Customs operations in close cooperation with the Free Zones stakeholders for the competitiveness and sustainability of Free Zones.