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Future prospects of postal customs clearance arrangements with special focus on the question of security aspects

by Dr. Claudia Hudasch

Within the European Union, postal operators are a key element of the European economy  and in 2007 they delivered around 95 billion letters and postal items. Each EU citizen receives approximately 200 postal deliveries a year. Depending on their content, postal items are subject to customs law.

After several trade facilitation initiatives, customs policy has changed. For instance, 9/11 saw an increase in security initiatives world-wide. Today, customs procedures are more focused on security and risk management. In addition, customs authorities have to meet further challenges in a complex and constantly changing environment.

A growing number of illicit cross-border movements of drugs, counterfeit merchandise, dual-use chemicals, currency and cultural property items are threatening global trade interests. As a consequence, various legislative initiatives around the world have changed the legal framework. The most important changes include the WCO Framework of Standards, the Modernised Customs Code of European Community, the US Code of Federal Regulation and the China Customs Order No. 172. The majority of these new regulations deal with electronic clearance information and advance information for risk analysis. Besides that, there are new regulations concerning the use of communication and information technologies between customs authorities and economic operators. These developments affect European customs authorities, European industry, as well as European citizens.

The increased use of various modes of modern transport by criminals may lead to a rise in the number of suspicious items sent via the postal network. The universal postal service is characterised by a large number of items, huge variety of customers and speed of delivery. These circumstances and a special legal framework (e. g. postal secrecy and data privacy), require a tailor-made solution of customs controls and risk management measures in postal traffic.

The subject of this thesis is to evaluate the future prospects of postal customs clearance arrangements with a special focus on the question of security aspects considering postal secrecy and data privacy. The aim is to define a legal framework that allows effective control of items with the help of sophisticated, non-intrusive screening technologies in combination with modern methods of electronic exchange between postal operators and customs authorities. These challenges have to be solved within the environment of European and national legislation, thereby emphasising the interaction of data privacy, customs and postal laws. The law must ensure that the system of customs controls in postal traffic strikes a balance between data privacy, trade facilitation and security.


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