Study Visit of the Convention Secretariat to Customs authorities of the Netherlands

27 June 2019

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The Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (Convention Secretariat) conducted a study visit to the Customs authorities of the Netherlands on June 25-26, 2019.

The visit was organized in the framework of current activities by the Convention Secretariat to raise awareness among academic and government stakeholders in the European Union on the damaging impacts of illicit tobacco trade in the areas of public health, government finances and security, and to promote the implementation of the Protocol which entered into force in September 2018 and counts 53 Parties so far.

Illicit tobacco trade poses a serious threat to public health as it increases access to – often cheaper – tobacco products, thus fueling the tobacco epidemic and undermining tobacco control policies. According to latest estimates by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, illicit tobacco deprives the EU and its Member States of roughly €10 billion of public revenue every year. Furthermore, illicit tobacco has been shown to constitute a source of funding for organized crime groups and terrorist organizations.

The Protocol was developed in response of the need for a concerted effort to combat illicit tobacco trade.

The specific purpose of the study visit to the headquarters of the Customs Administration and the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands was to enrich the understanding of the daily responsibilities and challenges faced by customs authorities in the execution of their mandates.

In the study visit, representatives from the Customs Administration and the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service provided a detailed overview of the customs and investigation authorities, their mandates and responsibilities and involvement in combatting illicit trade in tobacco products in the Netherlands and the European Union.

A visit was also paid to the customs clearance site of the Port of Rotterdam, the largest sea port in Europe and entry point for 25% of all goods transiting through the territory of the European Union annually, and was provided with an overview of tools and methodologies used by authorities to detect illicit goods transiting the borders of the European Union.

The very nature of illicit trade in tobacco products demands an effective response by authorities through multi-stakeholder coordination at domestic, regional and global level. Awareness raising activities contribute to knowledge sharing and understanding between authorities combatting illicit tobacco at different levels, while supporting the successful implementation obligations of The Protocol by Parties.

The Convention Secretariat continues to support Parties to ratify and implement the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.