When it comes to shopping, there are no longer any limits for consumers today. Thanks to online trading, they can easily order their products anywhere in the world. As long as a parcel from a third country contains goods worth less than 150 euros, there are not even customs duties. This is what the EU Customs Code provides for in order to keep the bureaucratic burden for traders low. In practice, this means that many retailers split deliveries into individual shipments in order not to have to declare the packages and save on customs payments. This "loophole" puts European companies at a competitive disadvantage and pollutes the environment. In addition, it costs the EU 750 million euros a year in customs revenues.

Hendrik Kafsack

Economic correspondent in Brussels.

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The European Commission therefore now wants to take countermeasures. At the beginning of 2028, the exemption from customs duties for parcels with a low value of goods is to be dropped. This is what a draft leaked in recent days provides for the long-awaited reform of the customs code, which the European Commission plans to present on Wednesday. The draft is available to the F.A.Z.

It's about better control

With the introduction of a simplified procedure for such shipments, the Commission does not want to increase the EU budget in particular. Rather, it is about better control of whether the imported goods meet the various EU standards, from environmental protection to social policy. The initiative is therefore met with approval in the European Parliament. "More and more products that do not meet our standards are coming individually packaged from third countries directly to the doorstep of European consumers," criticized MEP Anna Cavazzini (Greens). Checks for safety or toxic chemicals are virtually excluded here. The collection of simple information on goods sold in e-commerce allows the EU to carry out risk analyses and stop dangerous goods and goods that do not comply with EU requirements.

To this end, the Commission also wants to set up a new EU customs authority to improve the coordination between national customs authorities, which is often poorly functioning today. The EU's customs system is a patchwork quilt. There is neither uniform data nor quality standards for them. There is a lack of an overview of which goods enter the EU and which leave it. If the customs of an EU member state determines that goods imported from a third country contain dangerous chemicals, other member states do not systematically have the necessary access to this information. For example, goods blocked in one country can still enter the EU via the ports of other countries and from there be redistributed in the internal market.

The EU customs authority is therefore to set up an electronic hub for customs data that should be fully operational in 2037. National customs authorities will then be able to access the data of the authorities of the other Member States in real time. In order for the reform to enter into force, it must be approved by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers of the EU member states.