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The Western Balkans and Moldova redouble efforts to implement Single Window and electronic trade data sharing

The Western Balkans and Moldova are moving to modernize their trade and Customs procedures and roll out standardized trade data sharing and Single Window for export and import clearance. Building on years of capacity-building and technical cooperation efforts by UNECE, the World Bank, the CEFTA secretariat and the European Commission, experts from the Western Balkans and international organizations gathered for an online workshop on 27-28 October 2020 to review progress and plan future steps forward, notably using the UN/CEFACT semantic standards and reference data models.

On 5 November 2020, Mr. Gjoko Tanasoski, Director of the Customs Administration of North Macedonia, noted at a meeting of Western Balkan and EU Ministers of Economy, under the Berlin Process, that the overall objective is a “reduction of transaction costs and facilitation of the customs procedures in line with the EU standards, UN/CEFACT standards and recommendations”. He brought the recommendations of the regional workshop to the attention of the “Berlin Process”, which promotes the European integration of the Western Balkans and which is currently jointly chaired by North Macedonia and Bulgaria. The key recommendations from the workshop are expected to be incorporated in the multiannual plan of action of the Berlin Process.

The Single Window system in North Macedonia, the second Single Window system in Europe after Sweden, was launched with partial assistance from UNECE in 2009. The system should now be updated to use the latest UN/CEFACT standards and reference data models.

The workshop, hosted by North Macedonia and UNECE, provided input to the World Bank’s project on Trade and Transport Facilitation in the Western Balkans, which will encompass the development of Single Windows in Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia using UN/CEFACT standards.

The workshop coincided with the announcement on 28 October of the European Commission’s proposal for new EU legislation on the Single Window Environment for Customs. UNECE’s experts contributed to the development of this legislation, using UNECE’s four Single Window Recommendations and the established collaboration with the European Commission’s DG TAXUD.

UNECE is currently working on a package of standards for digital multimodal transport data exchange. Participants from the Western Balkans, the World Bank and UNCTAD/ASYCUDA expressed interest in possible pilot projects related to multimodal corridor interoperability. The elimination of the exchange of paper documents, including in the transition between modes of transport and submission of documents and data to the regulatory authorities, is more important than ever, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.