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23rd European Customs Law Conference- Schaffhausen, Switzerland

From 30th June to 1st of July 2011 the 23rd European Customs Law Conference took place in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.  The topic of the 2011 Conference was Security and Free Trade. As usual, it was organised by the European Forum for Foreign Trade, Customs and Excise e.V. this year in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Customs Administration.

After a social get-together in Schaffhausen’s picturesque old town on Wednesday night, Prof. Dr. Wolffgang opened the 23rd European Customs Law Conference on Thursday morning. With almost 400 participants and another 20 speakers the venue “Park Casino” was filled to capacity. In his opening address Prof. Dr. Wolffgang stressed the strong relation between the conference and the Rhine. After Düsseldorf, Mannheim and Bonn, Schaffhausen was now the fourth conference venue located on the Rhine. The explanation was the connection between water ways as ancient trade routes and customs. Thomas Feuerer, President of the City of Schaffhasen welcomed the audience on behalf of the hosting city Schaffhausen. Representing Swiss Customs, Rudolf Dietrich, Director- General of Swiss Customs Bern, and Dr. Lukas Birner, Director, Zurich Chamber of Commerce both held an opening address. They explained the special situation of Switzerland as an island within the EU, presented the Swiss point of view regarding the topic of Security and Free Trade and outlined current projects and developments.

The first conference topic dealt with the summary pre-arrival declaration (“The initial Impressions of Administrations and Trade”). Dr. Lothar Harings, host of the first discussion round, described summary pre-arrival declarations as important factor of the security initiative within the EU but stressed the importance of unification of IT-systems. Rudolf Erb, Departmental Director, Directorate (North), Hamburg evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of the first six months since introduction of the summary pre-arrival declaration from the perspective of the German Customs administration. One problem, for example, was that economic operators have not yet fully adapted the new system and that the administration has not introduced uniform IT-standards. All in all, however, Mr. Erb was satisfied with the start of the program.
In the next presentation, Serge Gumy, Departmental Head, Directorate General of Swiss Customs, Bern, described the first six months with the new system from the Swiss perspective. Mr. Gumy stated that the program had not yet had any negative effect on the Swiss work but that the quality of Data collection deeply needed to be improved. To complete the picture, Petra Hermann from Panasonic Europe Ltd., and Anemone Pelikan from Hapag-Llyod AG, Hamburg, described the summary pre-arrival declaration from the point of view of an economic operator and a shipping company.  In particular, the exchange of data and the ambiguity of the data sheets were cited as major disadvantages.
The second topic dealt with the collection and analysis of risk data and was hosted by Prof. Dr. Witte from the Federal University of Applied Sciences in Münster. Dr. Peter Keller, Chief Govermental Director of the Customs Criminological Office, Cologne presented risk data collection systems in Germany. Michael Lux, Head of Unit, TAXUD, European Commission, Brussels described security initiatives within the European Union. Mr. Lux explained the aim of the Commission to collect uniform risk data at one point within all member states of the EU and to introduce uniform criteria for risk analysis. The Swiss perspective was provided by Heinz Widmer, Head of the Customs Office, Zurich Airport. Mr. Widmer stressed the necessaty of risk analysis at the earliest possible stage and also pointed out the high costs. Also, he mentioned that 100% certainty can only be guaranteed by a physical examination of goods.
The last contribution to the first conference day was given by Jean-Michel Grave, Head of Unit, TAXUD, European Commission, Brussels. Mr. Grave discussed the progress of the modernized customs code foundations and implementing provisions.
After the conclusion a bus transferred the audience to the Munot, a typical Swiss castle and afterwards to a gala evening in Büsigen, a German enclave on Swiss territory.

The second conference day started with a discussion round about global security initiatives and the development of mutual recognition. This topic dealt with the topic “free trade and safety” from an international point of view and was moderated by Dr. Lothar Gellert. Dr. Susanne Aigner, Deputy Director of the WTO, Brussels presented the SAFE framework of the WTO. Bryce Blegen, American Association of Exporters and Importers, Washigton D.C., spoke about C-TPAT, AEO and the continuing Evolution of International Supply Chain Security ten years after 9/11. Peter Flückinger, Deputy Head of Foreign Trade, economiesuisse, Zurich, explained how Switzerland contributes to global security and Zhaokand Jiang, American Chamber of Commerce, Peking described the Chinese perspective. Prof. Dr. David Widdowson, Centre of Customs and Excise, University of Canberra explained that the progress of AEO was improving.
The last presentation of the conference was held by Walter Deffaa, Director-General, Taxud, European Commission, Brussels who reported about the recent international customs co-operations of the EU.

In his closing speech, Prof. Wolffgang thanked all speakers for their interesting presentations, and the audience for the interesting and sophisticated discussions. He was pleased to declare the 23rd Europenan Custom Law Conference a complete success.

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