European Union Customs Union

EU's common customs area

  Non-EU states which participate in the customs union, or are in bilateral customs unions with the EU
TypeCustoms unionMembership
27 EU member states
5 states/territories with bilateral agreements
• Total
4,950,000 km2 (1,910,000 sq mi)Population
• 2021 estimate
Decrease 518,000,000GDP (PPP)2021 estimate
• Total
Decrease $16.1 trillionGDP (nominal)2021 estimate
• Total
Decrease $16.6 trillion
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The European Union Customs Union (EUCU), formally known as the Community Customs Union, is a customs union which consists of all the member states of the European Union (EU), Monaco, and the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. Some detached territories of EU states do not participate in the customs union, usually as a result of their geographic separation.[a] In addition to the EUCU, the EU is in customs unions with Andorra, San Marino and Turkey (with the exceptions of certain goods),[b] through separate bilateral agreements.[2]

There are no tariffs or non-tariff barriers to trade between the members of the customs union and – unlike a free-trade area – members of the customs union impose a common external tariff on all goods entering the union.[3]

The European Commission negotiates for and on behalf of the Union as a whole in international trade deals, rather than each member state negotiating individually. It also represents the Union in the World Trade Organization and any trade disputes mediated through it.

Common external tariffs

The EU Customs Union sets the tariff rates for imports to the EU from other countries. These rates are detailed and depend on the specific type of product imported, and can also vary by the time of year.[4] The full WTO Most Favoured Nation tariff rates apply only to those countries that do not have a Free Trade Agreement with the EU, or are not on a WTO recognised exemption scheme such as Everything but Arms (an EU support arrangement for Least Developed Countries).

Union and common transit

Union transit, formerly called "Community transit", is a system generally applicable to the movement of non-Union goods for which customs duties and other charges due on import have not been paid, and of Union goods, which, between their point of departure and point of destination in the EU, have to pass through the territory of a third country.[5]

The 'common' transit procedure is used for the movement of goods between the EU Member States, the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), Turkey (since 1 December 2012), the Republic of North Macedonia (since 1 July 2015) and Serbia (since 1 February 2016). The operation of the common transit procedure with the UK is ensured as the UK has deposited its instrument of accession on 30 January 2019 with the Secretariat of the Council of the EU.[5] The procedure is based on the Convention of 20 May 1987 on a common transit procedure. The rules are effectively identical to those of the Union transit.[5]

Edward Kellett-Bowman MEP, as rapporteur for a European Parliament Committee of Inquiry, presented a report to the Parliament in February 1997 [6] which identified the removal of border controls and a lack of co-operation by member states as being responsible for a rise in organised crime and smuggling.[7] Kellett-Bowman's report led to the European Union setting up a customs investigation body and computerising transit-monitoring systems.[8]

Union Customs Code

The Union Customs Code (UCC), intended to modernise customs procedures, entered into force on 1 May 2016.[9] Implementation will take place over a period of time and full implementation is anticipated by 31 December 2020 at the latest.[10] The European Commission has stated that the aims of the UCC are simplicity, service and speed.

Non-EU participants

Monaco and the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are integral parts of the EU's customs territory.[2][11]

State / territory Agreement Entry into force
Monaco Franco-Monegasque Customs Convention[12][13][14] 1968
 Akrotiri and Dhekelia (United Kingdom) Treaty of Accession 2003[15]
Brexit withdrawal agreement[11]
1 May 2004

EU territories with opt-outs

While all EU member states are part of the customs union, not all of their respective territories participate. Territories of member states which have remained outside of the EU (overseas territories of the European Union) generally do not participate in the customs union.[16]

However, some territories within the EU do not participate in the customs union for tax and/or geographical reasons:

Historical opt outs

The following territories were excluded until the end of 2019:

Bilateral customs unions

Andorra, San Marino and Turkey are each in a customs union with the EU.[2]

State Agreement Entry into force Notes
Andorra Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Economic Community and the Principality of Andorra – Joint Declarations[19] 1 January 1991 Excludes agricultural produce
San Marino Agreement on Cooperation and Customs Union between the European Economic Community and the Republic of San Marino[20] 1 April 2002
Turkey Decision No 1/95 of the EC-Turkey Association Council of 22 December 1995 on implementing the final phase of the Customs Union[21] 31 December 1995 Excludes agricultural produce

Special arrangements concerning territories of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland left the European Union on 31 January 2020 and transition arrangements ended on 31 December 2020. Special arrangements have been made for those parts of the United Kingdom and its territories that share a land border with an EU member state.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is no longer a member of the European Union Customs Union: its trade with Great Britain and its trade with the European Union are each now regulated by the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 and the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. These include special provisions for trade in goods between Northern Ireland and the EU which for many purposes are similar to those that apply within the Customs Union, although Northern Ireland remains part of United Kingdom Customs territory.


Gibraltar left the EU concurrently with the United Kingdom. When part of the EU, it was one of the EU territories with opt-outs and had not been part of the Customs Union. An agreement in principle has been reached between the EU, the United Kingdom, and Gibraltar to negotiate a treaty which would include provisions for trade on goods between the EU and Gibraltar.[22] These would be "substantially similar" to those within the Customs Union. As of July 2021[update] the agreement has not yet been concluded.

Akrotiri and Dhekelia

As already noted above, the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia on the island of Cyprus are integral parts of the EU's customs territory.

See also

Explanatory footnotes

  1. ^ For example, the one exclave of Germany within Switzerland.
  2. ^ See European Union–Turkey Customs Union.


  1. ^ Dinan, Desmond (2014). Europe Recast: A History of European Union (2nd ed.). Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-333-69352-0.
  2. ^ a b c Customs unions, Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  3. ^ Erskine, Daniel H (2006). "The United States-EC Dispute Over Customs Matters: Trade Facilitation, Customs Unions, and the Meaning of WTO Obligations". Florida Journal of International Law. 18: 432–485. SSRN 987367.
  4. ^ Taric and Quota Data & Information  – European Commission Communication and Information Resource Centre for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens.
  5. ^ a b c European Union, Union and Common Transit, accessed 24 December 2020 CC-BY icon.svg Text was copied from this source, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
  6. ^ European Parliament, Report on the Community Transit System, 20 February 1997, accessed 31 January 2017
  7. ^ Neil Buckley, "Cross-border crime loses EU billions: Inquiry blames Brussels and customs for failing to clamp down on smuggling", Financial Times, 21 February 1997, p. 2.
  8. ^ Neil Buckley, "EU plans single body against smuggling", Financial Times, 13 March 1997, p. 2.
  9. ^ "Union Customs Code – Taxation and customs union – European Commission". Taxation and customs union.
  10. ^ UCC: an Introduction, accessed 29 January 2017
  11. ^ a b Protocol relating to the Sovereign Base Areas of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Cyprus, Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, EUR-Lex, 12 November 2019.
  12. ^ "Taxation and Customs – FAQ". European Commission. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  13. ^ "Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 of 12 October 1992 establishing the Community Customs Code". Official Journal of the European Union. 19 October 1992. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  14. ^ "Monaco and the European Union". Gouvernement Princier. Retrieved 31 January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Protocol No. 3 on the Sovereign Base Areas of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Cyprus, Act concerning the conditions of accession of the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Poland, the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovak Republic and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the European Union is founded, EUR-Lex, 23 September 2003.
  16. ^ a b Territorial status of EU countries and certain territories – European Commission, retrieved 18 December 2018
  17. ^ a b c d Article 6 of Council Directive 2006/112/EC, 28 November 2006
  18. ^ a b c "REGULATION (EU) No 952/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 9 October 2013 laying down the Union Customs Code, Article 4" (PDF). EURLEX. October 2013. p. 11. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Andorra: Customs Unions and preferential arrangements". European Commission. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  20. ^ "Agreement on Cooperation and Customs Union between the European Economic Community and the Republic of San Marino".
  21. ^ "Decision No 1/95 of the EC-Turkey Association Council of 22 December 1995 on implementing the final phase of the Customs Union" (PDF).
  22. ^ Martin, Maria; González, Miguel (11 January 2021). "Deal between Spain and UK plans to eliminate Gibraltar border checkpoint". El Pais. Madrid.

External links

  • TARIC database enquiry system, gives current tariff rates applicable by exporting country and season – European Commission: Communication and Information Resource Centre for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens.
  • TARIC and Quota Data & Information: user guides for the TARIC database above – European Commission: Communication and Information Resource Centre for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens.
  • "Turkey border gridlock hints at pain to come for Brexit Britain". Financial Times, February 16, 2017
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