Before coming to the Mission I worked for Bulgaria’s National Customs Agency for twenty three years, dealing with the classification and origin of goods. I’m happy to share my experiences because Bulgaria passed through similar learning stages of the preferential trade arrangements with the EU that Moldova and Ukraine now go through.
In my job I advise the Customs services of both countries on origin and classification of goods. The rules of origin are a basic element of the trade relations between the EU and Moldova and Ukraine. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) provide for mutual opening of markets for goods at lower or zero rates of duties and the rules of origin set the conditions to be met so that the goods can receive this preferential treatment. That’s why it is very important for both countries to correctly understand the legislation, to apply it, and to organise the process in such a way that Customs really do what the DCFTA requires from them.
The DCFTAs have led to increased responsibilities for the Customs services. For instance, for Ukraine a brand new Customs activity has been to issue certificates of origin at export, which was previously done by the Chamber of Commerce. There was quite a lot of excitement beforehand, a bit of fear also, but Ukraine’s Customs were well prepared and in the end it was done successfully. This is a really major achievement.
EUBAM’s big advantage is that we are permanently based in Moldova and Ukraine. We know how practices work, how they should be improved and assist on a daily basis whenever advice is needed. The rewarding part is to see that some regulations have been adopted, that some practices are already enforced, that changes are actually happening.
Of course, there have been challenges and a lot of work remains to be done to fulfil the DCFTAs’ potential. If the expectation is that you’ll get something without making the effort then there will be disappointment. Progress is being made but from a consumer’s point of view, perhaps not all of the benefits of the DCFTAs have been realised yet. But if there is enough will to create equal, consistent and predictable conditions, then it surely will be visible.