Although the formal requirements for bringing goods into the Customs Union of the EU are largely harmonised by EU customs legislation, authorisation procedures for bringing goods into the Union vary per Member State.

The Think Tank of the European Parliament has conducted a study into the authorisation procedures of the various Member States for entry of goods into the EU, which was published on 19 December 2022. While the Think Tank acknowledges the need for effective customs controls, it also argues that the divergence in the practices of Member States can create efficiency barriers, such as the time needed for customs controls.

Broadly speaking, the Think Tank has found key differences in the Member States’ practices when it comes to the following three areas:

  1. The IT systems that process customs declarations. Even though the same customs declarations have to be filed throughout the EU, all 27 EU Member States have their own, unique IT system for submitting and processing these declarations.
  2. Although the EU has harmonised customs legislation (including legislation on prohibition and restrictions), implementation of this legislation varies across Member States. This divergence leads to undesirable different practices by EU Member States.
  3. EU Member States are responsible for implementing their own sanction and infringement regime. Due to this national competence, the sanction and infringement regimes can vary widely between the Member States. As an example, whereas some EU Member States merely apply an administrative regime for customs infringements, other Member States apply criminal sanctions to the same infringements.

The Think Tank ends the report with a number of recommendations, aimed at improving the unity of the customs procedures throughout the EU, such as implementing a single unified customs control mechanism and updating the various IT systems in line with the UCC and its implementation plan. The EU legislator is already working towards unifying the customs control mechanism of the various EU Member States, as it announced a single window for customs in October 2022. The full report can be accessed here.


Frits Pasch is a Junior Associate within Amsterdam Indirect Tax team. He joined the firm in January 2021.