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Ecofin ministers discussed the centralisation of the customs union's IT systems

18 September 2017
From the left deputy chancellor Dmitri Jegorov, EC vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis and Estonian finance minister Toomas Tõniste.

On Saturday, EU economic and finance ministers talked about the idea of centralising the development of the customs union’s IT systems as what would possibly be the most cost-efficient way forward. Ministers agreed that the further cost efficiency and sustainability of the IT systems are important topics and the way the systems are developed today requires change.

The issue was discussed at the informal Ecofin meeting today. “We have learned from the past that having 28 different IT systems is not sustainable. At the moment, the cost of developing them separately is estimated to be up to 2 billion euros. The costs for businesses come on top of that. We see that there is a common understanding that future customs union IT-systems development require a change of policy in order to gain efficiency and cut costs for member states and trade, although the best method has yet to be decided,” said Estonian Finance Minister Toomas Tõniste after the meeting.    

“More discussions on the expert level are needed to achieve an agreement on how to go further. There is strong support for a pilot project and it could prove that the centralised approach to the IT works for the customs union,” the Minister added.

According to Unions Custom Code all data exchange between customs authorities and businesses must be electronic from the beginning of 2021. Despite the ever increasing harmonisation of law and the standardisation of procedures, there is significant duplication in the development and operation of IT systems.

The EU is one of the main players in overall global trade, with a total share of 16%. Besides providing protection to EU citizens, each year EU Customs authorities collect 15% of the EU’s total revenue.