Finance Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech speaks at the recent customs workshop organised as part of the EU TAIEX Programme and explains the importance of Maltese customs now forming part of the larger EU Customs Union
I wish to welcome you on the occasion of this Workshop on Customs. I wish to take this opportunity to explain the significance for Maltese Customs having become part of a large Customs Union.
On the 1st May 2004 Malta became part of an internal market so that now we too have to give our contribution in order to ensure that this market operates effectively and efficiently. We are doing this together with the other Member States Customs Administrations by implementing procedures and by applying the necessary tools in order to diminish as much as possible opportunities for fraud and abuse. At the same time we are contributing towards the simplification and rationalisation of EU Customs legislation through work programmes for the purpose.
Our Customs organisation has, in line with other Member States’ Customs Administrations, modernised procedures in order to facilitate legitimate trade through the application of risk management techniques and in order to identify more efficiently those transactions which carry higher risk. To achieve this, we have invested heavily in the training of our customs officials, and in automated systems which assist us to expedite the release of cargo, but at the same time ensure better and more effective controls.
We are very much aware of the new responsibilities we have to action as a new Member State. We are facing new challenges, namely the internal market, the possible increase in fraudulent actions, the reduction in the obstacles to international trade and the need to safeguard the security of the external frontier of the larger European Community. The challenges have transformed our Customs role in such a way that as part of the biggest economic block in the world, Malta has become an important part in the process of globalisation and of the mechanism which operates the process of improving the EU Member States’ competitivity. This represents the new economic reality for us and this reality is reflected in the new role and processes we have assumed.
This means that as part of the largest Customs Union in the World, we must operate to ensure that the levels of control being applied in the area of imports and exports of goods into and from the Community’s territory are of the same standard and intensity as those applied throughout the Community. We do not want to be the weakest link in the chain and I am sure that recent results have shown that we are not.
I wish to refer here to a new initiative undertaken by Maltese and Italian Customs last year, resulting from the increased need for co-operation amongst the four Member States in the Mediterranean region, namely, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. Workshops to increase co-operation were held in Rome last summer, where issues of common interest were identified by the respective Directors General.
Special emphasis was placed on the need for effective protection of this part of the external frontier of the EU for which these four countries are directly responsible. Discussion also centred on how the internal market can operate in an effective way in order to protect Intellectual Property Rights and consequently the methods to apply in order to strengthen the fight against counterfeit goods.
Another area identified was the movement of licit traffic amongst member states and specifically amongst these four countries in this particular geographic zone. This movement should be facilitated for the benefit of our industrial concerns, thus reducing cost, lead times and increasing competitivity of our respective industries.
These workshops are now to be held on an annual basis and I am pleased to announce that the next meeting will be held in Malta next June. We feel that the intervening period is necessary to put in place the necessary processes, interfaces and investments to strengthen the outputs agreed through these workshops and thereby increase our collective capability.
We have the ability to control the movement of goods and persons. We have the necessary experience and expertise in trade and commercial practices. However, we can only achieve our objectives through co-operation with other national agencies, with other Member States Customs administrations especially those in the Mediterranean region and with the other neighbouring countries, including those in the North of Africa.