2020: A year of challenges, but also opportunities

On September 28, 2020, the EU Commission issued a “Plan of Action” calling on all member states to embrace many changes that are so desperately needed in today’s new world.  

Many challenges have appeared on stage in 2020 and this provided an opportunity to learn and develop new strategies that will impact all parties involved with importing and well as exporting foods from the EU member states.

The challenges that force the EU commission to review customs practices and policies are the rising impact of E-commerce business, the importing of PPE products due to COVID-19, “The Brexit Change” and the increase of undervalued goods reaching the EU marketplace.

All of these challenges were researched by the Commission and they have set out the development of new business models used by Customs, relying on digitalization of documents, the financing new tools used by Custom inspectors on the front line, and identifying the need for the increased use of data for security, and risk assessment.

The EU commission has shared the layout of this new action plan with stated timelines as well as definitive actions that align with the proposed revisions. We can see the change being taken by the member states many of these actions will also bring impacts and changes to companies that rely on the fast movement of goods between EU member states as well as those goods that cross the borders.

The following list of actions is important to review so that you can understand and examine many of your current business practices to ensure that you can partner with the member states.

Actions include:

  • More effective customs risk management to allow more effective controls - The Commission will be developing tools within the EU Surveillance 7 electronic system to utilize its comprehensive set of import and export data to extract trends affecting the financial interests of the Union. A new and revised risk management strategy for all member countries to adopt so that better standards will be placed.
  • Managing e-commerce - Creation of direct customs access to the Eurofisc tax information hub and an analysis of the impact of e-commerce on customs duty collection and on the level playing field for EU operators.
  • Strengthening and facilitating compliance - Legislative proposal to set out more precise monitoring obligations as well as update the guidelines on member states to monitor AEO’s programs. The Commission services will extend their monitoring of the application of preferential origin rules and procedures to Free Trade Agreements and will aim to resolve with the countries involved issues arising related to weaknesses and shortcomings in the implementation of these rules and procedures. The Commission aims to enhance access to information, details guidance, technical assistance as well as education, and will also adopt implementing acts (better controls) for the market surveillance regulation, aimed at addressing products entering the EU markets (the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the need for this new action).
  • Customs working as one - The Commission will launch an impact assessment, on the pros and cons of an agency approach covering a number of customs cooperation domains, so as to decide whether to propose such an agency under the next Multiannual Financial Framework. The aim is to make Customs smarter, more agile, and technologically advanced and more crisis-proof.


This Action Plan by the Commission has set out an ambitious series of actions aimed at ensuring a more coherent and stronger Customs Union responding to four areas of intervention: risk management, e-commerce, compliance, and the Customs Union acting as one.  Time is short and new challenges are ever-increasing and impacting the supply chains across the globe, as such the EU Commission has spoken, and now is the time for action. 

Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly.