Saturday, 15 March 2008

EU TFEU: Free circulation of imported goods

Once goods imported into the European Union have cleared customs border control, they are allowed to circulate freely within the EU, subject to the same rules and restrictions which apply to Community products.


Article 24 of the Treaty establishing the European Communities (TEC) offers us the opportunity to see a provision untouched by the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2007). The name of the treaty changes to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and there were changes when Part Three was named Policies and internal actions of the Union, and Title I The internal market was inserted.

As shown in the Annex Tables of equivalences referred to in Article 5 of the Treaty of Lisbon (ToL), most provisions have been given a number initially, but will be given a new, more palatable number in coming consolidated versions of the treaties.

Thus, Article 24 TEC is numbered 24 in TFEU (ToL), but will be renumbered Article 29 TFEU (OJ 29.12.2007 C 306/206), but even the horizontal amendments leave the wording alone.

Here is the text (OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/51 for the latest consolidated version of the current treaties):

Article 24 TFEU (ToL), after renumbering Article 29 TFEU

Products coming from a third country shall be considered to be in free circulation in a Member State if the import formalities have been complied with and any customs duties or charges having equivalent effect which are payable have been levied in that Member State, and if they have not benefited from a total or partial drawback of such duties or charges.


The corresponding provision in the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe is Article III-37. The wording is identical, which you can check by looking up OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/33.

The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe presented five different Articles as one, but Article III-151(3) reproduces exactly the same wording as the Article under discussion (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310/65).


But the third country exporter or the EU importer needs to know how to get the products legally into the European Community (European Union) and thus into free circulation. There are three cumulative criteria to fulfil before imported goods are cleared for free circulation within the European Community:

1) Import ‘formalities’ have to be complied with.

2) Customs duties and other charges have to be paid.

3) The goods have not benefited from drawback of duties or charges.

A few pointers:

Customs authorities play a crucial role. ‘Import formalities’ are much more than what the word ‘formality’ would lead one to believe. In addition to customs duties, Customs officials implement and enforce Community legislation concerning commercial policy measures (quotas, anti-dumping, pirated goods) as well as security, environmental, consumer protection, cultural and agricultural controls. The following Commission web page offers a quick introduction:

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:

Once goods from third countries have cleared import requirements and duties, they are allowed to circulate freely in the internal market (single market). The Commission published an introduction to the single market 14 March 2008, a 20 page brochure aimed at the general reader: Single market for goods – Information pack 2008. Available at:

These introductions serve as a base for more detailed information gathering.

Ralf Grahn