Monday, 17 March 2008

EU TFEU: Common Customs Tariff duties

The member states of the European Union have a common Community Customs Code, about to be replaced by a Modernised Customs Code, which aims to simplify customs operations in an increasingly paperless, electronic environment.

The Customs Code, further implementing acts and detailed decisions on tariffs are based on Article 26 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, preserved in the amending Lisbon Treaty.

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The current Article 26 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) forms the legal base for setting customs tariff duties. We locate the provision in the latest consolidated edition of the existing treaties, OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/52:

Article 26 TEC

Common Customs Tariff duties shall be fixed by the Council acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission.

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In the Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2007) made no express amendments to Article 26 TEC. Still, the treaty is renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the words ‘acting by a qualified majority’ are deleted according to horizontal amendment 2(d) and readers of later consolidated versions of the amended treaty are going to see the provision under a new number (as presented in the tables of equivalences, OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/207):

Article 26 TFEU (ToL), renumbered Article 31 TFEU

Common Customs Tariff duties shall be fixed by the Council on a proposal from the Commission.

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There were minor differences in wording, but the previous stages of treaty reform were substantially the same as the provisions presented above:

Article III-39 Draft Constitution (OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/34).

Article III-151(5) Constitution (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310/65).

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Two days ago I pointed the interested reader towards additional information including the following: The potential exporter or importer can start on the Commission’s web pages Taxation and Customs Union: Free circulation. There are links to the 78 page Community Customs Code (CC) and its 700 pages of implementing provisions. The Modernised Community Customs Code (MCCC) was approved without amendment by the European Parliament 19 February 2008, and it is expected to enter into force in the middle of 2008. New implementing provisions are then expected for the end of this year or the beginning of 2009. Start the tour at:

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/procedural_aspects/imports/free_circulation/index_en.htm

Now we could take an additional step, by looking up what the European Parliament had to say about the Modernised Community Customs Code (MCCC).

The European Parliament, at second reading, without amendments approved the Council common position on the adoption of a regulation laying down the Community Customs Code (Modernised Customs Code):

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P6-TA-2008-0049+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

In all its formality, the EP legislative resolution presents a number of documents we can access, if we want to study the matter more closely. We choose to take a look at the Council common position (OJ 11.12.2007 C 298 E/1), found in the Official Journal, under Information and Notices:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/JOIndex.do?year=2007&serie=C&textfield2=298E&Submit=Search&_submit=Search&ihmlang=en

The first four pages of reasons (‘Whereas’) offer the general reader an overview of the Community customs union as the basis for the specific decisions to be taken pursuant to Article 26 TFEU (ToL), renumbered Article 31 TFEU. The specialist may want to peruse all 68 pages of the Modernised Customs Code.


Ralf Grahn
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