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Question 15 January 2013 G Watson (ALDE-LibDems)
Subject: Spanish customs checks
In response to Question E009971/2011, the Commission stated that it does not routinely monitor the customs checks performed by the national authorities. However, it suggested that Member States should select custom controls based on ‘risk management’ factors as provided for in the customs legislation.
Gibraltar remains outside the customs union, and therefore alcohol and tobacco may be available at lower cost than in Spain. The Spanish authorities have implemented thorough checks on individuals and vehicles at the La Línea frontier. On some days every vehicle will be checked and inspected for contraband, and such an approach can lead to severe delays at the border — sometimes of up to six hours.
The Agreement between the European Economic Community and the Principality of Andorra which entered into force on 1 July 1991 establishes a customs union with mostfavoured nation status between the Principality and the EU. However, VAT and duty on alcohol and tobacco are far lower in Andorra than in Spain.
Melilla and Ceuta benefit from an autonomous preferential agreement with the EU, but neither is part of the EU’s customs territory. Citizens travelling from these territories must also abide by customs and tax allowances for travellers similar to those applying to people travelling from outside the EU, just as is the case for those crossing from Gibraltar into Spain.
1. Is the Commission satisfied that the Spanish authorities have the appropriate customs provision in place for citizens travelling between:
— Andorra and Spain, and
— the autonomous cities of Melilla and Ceuta onwards to Spain?2. With VAT and duty being lower in Andorra as well as Melilla and Ceuta, these territories represent a threat to customs revenue similar to that posed by those entering Spain from Gibraltar. In light of this, does the Commission consider that a consistent, fair and nondiscriminatory approach would see similar thorough checks also being required at the frontiers with Andorra as well as with Melilla and Ceuta?
Answer 1 March 2013 Commissioner Šemeta
Although all three territories are indeed not part of the customs territory of the European Union, special and different arrangements between these territories and the EU apply.
An agreement for a customs union between the EU and Andorra has been in force since 1 July 1991(1) covering some products, but not alcohol or tobacco. This agreement ensures that some Andorra goods enter in the entire Union free of customs duty, or benefit from preferential rates.
The territorial status of Ceuta and Melilla is contained in Protocol No2 concerning the accession of the Kingdom of Spain to the EU. Melilla and Ceuta have certain preferential arrangements with the Union as a whole, as well as additional preference arrangements with peninsular Spain whereby goods of Ceuta or Melilla origin qualify for exemption from duty. In addition, under Spanish law, these territories have been designated as exempted areas for custom purposes.
Gibraltar is treated as a third country for customs purposes by virtue of Section 4 of Annex I to the Act of Accession of the United Kingdom of 1972 and, in the absence of any specific preferential arrangements such as the ones mentioned above, exports of goods of local origin to the EU are treated under the usual terms of the Generalised system of preferences.
For excise and VAT purposes all of these territories are treated as Third Countries. Duty and tax free allowances are restricted to travellers(2). In this particular regard, the Honourable Member is referred to Question E000427/2013.
As the rules in force in respect of the above three territories are different, different customs checks may appear necessary to ensure the correct application of the relevant legislation.
(1) Council Decision No 90/680/EEC of 26 November 1990.
The allowances are set out in Regulation (EC) 1186/2009 and Directive 2007/74/EC.