Customs authorities are responsible for collecting and safeguarding customs duties and for the controlling of goods including animals, personal effects and dangerous goods in and out of a customs territory. The EEA is not a customs union, thus most of the activities in the customs field are not relevant to the EEA Agreement.
Security measures based on the World Customs Organization’s SAFE Framework of Standards imply, i.a. the introduction of pre-arrival/pre-departure declarations. This means that a set of security data is submitted to the customs authorities before goods physically arrive in/leave the customs territory. The SAFE Framework of standards also contains other important security measures, such as Authorised Economic Operators and a Risk Management System.
The issue of pre-arrival/pre-departure declarations is particularly sensitive in the trade relations between the EU and the EFTA countries. Norway and Switzerland were able to find simplified solutions through bilateral negotiations, waiving the requirement to perform security procedures in trade with the EU.
Thus, security measures in the international supply chain will be anchored in national legislation and future mutual recognition agreements.
The creation of the Pan-Euro-Med free trade and cumulation system is an important ongoing issue. In the Barcelona Declaration (1995), the Euro-Mediterranean Partners agreed to establish a Pan-Euro-Med Free Trade Area by 2010. This Free Trade Area, consisting of the Euro-Mediterranean Partner countries and the EFTA countries, includes 42 states and 600-800 million consumers, i.e., one of the world’s most important trade entities. In 2007, the Euro-Mediterranean Partners decided to extend the Pan-Euro-Med Free Trade Area to the Western Balkan countries. They also decided to initiate the development of a regional convention on the preferential rules of origin (PEM Convention), thus replacing the individual origin protocols in the various free trade agreements with this convention.
In the context of the Pan-Euro-Med Free Trade Area, the concept of diagonal cumulation is used. This means that products which have originating status in one of the 42 countries may be added to products originating in any other of the 42, without losing originating status within the Pan-Euro-Med zone.
The EFTA Committee of Origin and Customs Experts and the EEA EFTA Working Group on Customs Matters closely follow the developments in all the above-mentioned customs fields, and provide input to the work carried out by the European Commission in order to safeguard the interest of the EFTA countries. Experts from the European Commission regularly attend the Committee/Working Group meetings in order to coordinate the ongoing activities.