12 May 2023


On 5 May, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) published a special report on the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme, aiming to assess whether it facilitates legitimate trade and supply chain security.

The report, entitled ‘Authorised Economic Operators: Solid customs programme with untapped potential and uneven implementation’ examined the Commission’s role in designing the programme's regulatory framework, its monitoring of the programme's implementation, and the Member States' implementation of the programme.

The audit found that the AEO programme facilitates legitimate trade and enhances supply chain security, but it requires changes and improvements in management, regulatory framework, and implementation. It also noted some deficiencies in the management of authorisations by Member States. Customs authorities do not monitor AEOs' permanent business establishments in other Member States properly, and they do not consistently use the AEO common IT system. Moreover, some Member States grant benefits to their registered AEOs inconsistently, with some being granted only to certain roles in the supply chain. The auditors recommend the Commission to improve the regulatory framework, current performance measurement framework, and management of the AEO programme. The recommendations aim to contribute to the upcoming reform of the Union Customs Code.

In response to the publication DG TAXUD commented that it will soon deliver its proposals to reform EU Customs which will address many of the ECA’s recommendations and create a more level playing field for businesses. Building on the current AEO programme, the proposals will put forward a new, data-led vision for the relationship between customs and business. This new framework will better reflect the realities of modern trade, the advances made possible by digitalisation and artificial intelligence, as well as the need for simpler and more effective customs controls and procedures.

The Commission’s full statement can be found here.