How participation in the “Customs” EU Program contributes to the further European integration of Ukraine

The European Union is primarily a customs union. Therefore, the introduction of the NCTS common transit system is the important stage not only of the integration of Ukrainian customs into the customs environment of the EU, but also of the integration of Ukraine into the EU in general.

Vytenis Ališauskas,
International Key Expert on custom reforms, EU4PFM

The role of a common customs system in the development of the European economy, working for the benefit of people, for the protection of the European way of life and for transfer of Europe into the new digital era, is of particular importance in the European Union.

The European Council recognizes the European perspective of Ukraine, which sees its future in the European Union. The Council of Europe decided to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate country. And today, Ukraine’s progress towards joining the European Union will depend on its work towards compliance with the Copenhagen criteria for the new EU members. The customs aspect is one of the key factors in these conditions.  

Francis Bacon once said, “Knowledge is power”. In the world, the strength of countries and their economies is in the rapid exchange of knowledge and information. NCTS is a system of exchange of masses of information about all stages of customs clearance of goods, which are organized and structured with the help of the latest IT solutions.

We in Europe see a full understanding of these factors by the Ukrainian authorities and management of the State Customs Service of Ukraine. The recent meeting of the EU-CTC Working Group on common transit and simplification of formalities in trade of goods was just a confirmation of this. This meeting was the first one, where Ukraine took part as a full member-state of the Convention on the Common Transit Procedure, and not as an observer. Ukraine presented the first results of the international use of NCTS, which received a positive assessment from the European Union.

According to Vladyslav Suvorov, the Deputy Head of the State Customs Service, “Accession to the Convention is the European mini-integration.”

But the question arises on how to ensure the further progress of Ukraine in this direction? It seems that Ukraine’s participation in the “Customs” cooperation program, established by Regulation (EU) No. 2021/444 of the European Parliament and the Council can contribute to it to a large extent.

The general objective of this Program is to support the Customs Union and customs authorities working together and acting as a single unit to protect the financial and economic interests of the Union and its member-states, to ensure security within the Union and to protect it against unfair and illegal trade, while facilitating legitimate business activities. The program also provides for customs risk management and supply chain security.

These goals are very relevant for Ukraine both in the tactical perspective during war status and in the strategic perspective of post-war economic recovery and full European integration.

The European Commission is responsible for the “Customs” program, and on October 5, 2022, sum  of €950 million was allocated for its implementation from the EU budget for the period 2021-2027.

Looking in details on the specific goals of the Customs program for EU countries, they are as follows: preparation and uniform implementation of customs legislation and policy; customs cooperation; administrative and IT capacity building, including competence and training, as well as development and operation of European electronic systems; — innovations in the field of customs policy.

Ukraine has the opportunity to learn IT services, developed and provided by DG TAXUD –  the directorate of the European Commission dealing with customs, tax and excise matters. After all, the way to innovations and simplifications in the field of customs policy lies precisely through effective IT solutions. A significant part of the budget of the “Customs” program is allocated to the IT sector. It concerns the development and operation of European electronic systems for customs, in particular, Quality Assurance (QA5), ITSM-Integration (IT Service Management), ITSM – Trans-European System Support (ITSM-TES).

Ukraine also would participate in various working groups and training programs that are already being implemented for the EU countries. The key group is the “electronic customs” working group, but there are others as well. The main thing is that when a customs official participates in work of these working groups or training, he gets access to the EU documents. They contain already systematized results of business processes, drawn conclusions – and if a country intends to create a new European-level IT system, it can familiarize itself with the experience of its predecessors. Therefore, it is possible to use already existing developments and not to invent anything new. Learn, adapt to your conditions, and implement.

Centralized creation of IT systems. Several IT systems are especially important, which are created centrally under the program for the EU countries. For example, the Customs Decision System, a system for AEO. The purpose of these systems is to make the data entered by one country available for another European country. In general, customs simplification tools in Europe have been already developed and they can and should be used. Today, candidate countries for the EU membership are getting to know these systems and will learn to use them effectively in the future.

It is central that representatives of Ukraine (the Customs, the Ministry of Finance) will have opportunity in the future not only to use and adapt the achievements of European partners, and also, through participating in various working groups, discussing draft laws, modeling processes, they will gradually become experts on various issues of the work of European customs and the customs regulatory framework. Ukrainian specialists will have access to the knowledge base, participate in the processes of integration and development. At certain hour later, Ukrainian customs will make its unique intellectual contribution to the development of the European customs sphere.

A significant part of the route to European integration has already been completed, but there is still a lot of complex and scrupulous work ahead. The European Union and all its institutions are ready to provide Ukraine and its Customs service with all possible assistance in its completion.