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UNECE supports trade connectivity in the Western Balkans

Interoperability of Single Window and other IT systems facilitating international trade in the broader European space can only be reached by using the same semantic standards for data sharing in the process of regulation of international trade.

As part of the overall efforts aimed at improving connectivity in the Western Balkans, UNECE provided capacity-building to key experts dealing with projects on Single Window for export and import clearance, notably on linking these and related projects to the work in the European Union and the United Nations.

Representatives from the Western Balkan countries presented their work on the Single Window, digital Customs, interagency and international data exchange, at a workshop organized by UNECE in collaboration with the Customs Administration of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and USAID, in Skopje from 15 to 16 November 2018. Experts from UNECE, the Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union (DG TAXUD) of the European Commission, and the Chair of the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) carried out practical exercises. These showed the participants what is being done on the Single Window in the European Union and elsewhere in the UNECE region, and how to use international standards and data models including the EU Customs Data Model (which is a customization of the World Customs Organization Data Model), and the UN/CEFACT Multimodal Transport Reference Data Model, which is one of the Buy-Ship-Pay Reference Data Models developed by UN/CEFACT. The Chair of UN/CEFACT shared her experience in the development of the WCO, EU Customs, and UN/CEFACT Multimodal Transport Reference Data Model.

This workshop will serve as a basis for the Western Balkan countries to engage in the work on data sharing in the development of the Single Window in Europe, noted Mr. Zahouani Saadaoui, responsible for the implementation and legal preparations for the EU Single Window environment for Customs. The participants agreed to pursue regular cooperation between the country teams, the European Commission and UNECE and its subsidiary body UN/CEFACT.

Mr. Gjoko Tanasoski, Director General of the Customs Administration of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia highlighted that the workshop responded to the need of his country and the region to reinvigorate the connection to the work in the European Union on the Single Window, at a time when a World Bank project in support of the Single Window and trade facilitation for the countries of the region was being prepared.

This activity builds on years of collaboration between UNECE and DG TAXUD on the Single Window and trade facilitation, and the successful cooperation with the countries of the Western Balkans on the Single Window and data harmonization.

The Single Window system of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, called EXIM, which was the first in the region, was developed in 2006-2007 with assistance from UNECE. Yet it was high time to update and reinvigorate the system to reflect new developments in standards and related work in UN/CEFACT and the EU. Assistance has also been provided to the other countries in the region for similar projects through the years. This activity is also aligned with the objectives of the Austrian and Bulgarian chairmanships of the Council of the European Union to foster trade connectivity with the Western Balkans.