On 25 and 26 March 1999 a newly established TIR Executive Board (TIRExB) has been convened in Geneva for its first constitutive session. This new international organ has been established by the 62 Contracting States to the TIR Convention, 1975 to coordinate better the international activities of Governments and national Customs authorities to safeguard the functioning of the TIR Customs transit regime.
The TIR Executive Board, as a neutral international Governmental body will, in particular, supervise the practical application of the TIR regime and its international guarantee system, supervise the printing and distribution of TIR Carnets, facilitate the settlement of disputes between States, transport associations and insurance companies and support the training of Customs personnel and that of transport associations working in the framework of the TIR Convention.
The TIR Executive Board will also provide a forum for the exchange of intelligence and other information among Customs authorities in order to combat effectively international crime which is constantly attempting to misuse the facilities of the TIR regime and to evade payment of Customs duties and taxes. The fight against such international criminal activities in a concerted manner is of utmost important given the fact that in many Central and Eastern European countries, such as the Russian Federation, duties and taxes collected by the Customs authorities constitute around 30 per cent of total Government revenues.
At its first constitutive session held on 25 and 26 March 1999 at the Office of the United Nations in Geneva, the TIR Executive Board decided to address, on a priority basis, difficulties in the application of the TIR regime in Eastern Europe in which more than half of all TIR transport operations end or start. In particular, the TIR Executive Board will endeavour to establish by mid=1999 provisions under which the TIR regime can be used for multimodal transport operations (i.e. container transport or ro-ro operations). This applies in particular to transport from the EU countries to and through the Russian Federation and vice versa.
The TIR Executive Board has also decided to ensure an early re-introduction of guarantee or insurance coverage for all transported commodities under the TIR regime. At present, tobacco and alcohol, even in small quantities, cannot be transported under the TIR regime due to lack of adequate insurance coverage, and a number of other "sensitive" goods are excluded on the territory of the European Union. Full guarantee coverage for all cargoes and in all countries is indispensable in order to reduce attempts of false declaration of cargo and to provide for efficient and cost-effective international transport of all commodities to be traded among European countries.
Furthermore, the TIR Executive Board decided in principle to focus its work on a complete implementation of the EDI control system for TIR Carnets (IRU SAFETIR) in all TIR countries and to assist the IRU in its endeavours to improve the completeness and correctness of data transmitted by national Customs authorities.
Other problems to be addressed will be the present difficulties stemming from late and sometimes incomplete information about new control measures introduced at frequent intervals by the Customs authorities and the differences in interpretation of legal and administrative provisions of the Convention by different countries.
The TIR Executive Board is composed of the following Government officials who have been elected in a personal capacity by the Contracting States of the TIR Convention for a two years term: Mr. G. Bauer (Switzerland); Mr. O. Beginin (Russian Federation); Mr. R. Ehmcke (Germany); Mr. O. Fedorov (Ukraine); Mrs. Y. Kasikçi (Turkey); Mr. Z. Lovric (Croatia); Mr. J. Marques (European Community); Mr. M. Olszewski (Poland); Mr. I. Parts (Estonia). The International Road Transport Union (IRU) which has been licenced by the Contracting States of the TIR Convention to print and distribute TIR Carnets for the years 1999 and 2000, enjoys observers status with the TIRExB.
Mr. R. Ehmcke (Germany) has been elected as Chairman of the TIR Executive Board.
The TIR Executive Board is one of the most important new elements of the recently revised TIR Convention. Work on the revision of the TIR Convention, which for decades has facilitated international transit traffic of goods in Europe, has been undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission (UN/ECE). With the objective of stopping the abuses of the facilities provided by this important Customs transit system committed by internationally organized crime in recent years, the amendments introduced in the Convention, which entered into force on 17 February 1999, will cut Customs fraud through a careful selection of authorized TIR transport operators, improved cooperation among all Customs authorities of the States Parties to the Convention and other measures (an outline of the new administrative structure of the TIR regime is attached).
The TIR Convention is administered by the UN/ECE and, at present, 62 States are Parties to it. The Convention establishes Customs transit procedures which provide for wide-ranging facilities for international goods transport by road, allowing for unhindered goods transport under Customs seal, based on an international guarantee, from Norway to Iran and from Portugal to Kazakhstan with only minimal Customs control at the borders. At present, nearly 3 million TIR transport operations are registered per year and it can be safely said that without the TIR regime the present volumes of land transport and trade, particularly between countries of the European Union and Eastern Europe, would not be possible.
Like other Customs transit regimes (such as those in the European Union), the TIR regime has faced in recent years considerable difficulties as a result of the activities of international organized crime which has abused the facilities provided by the TIR Convention. Customs stamps were falsified, false cargo declarations were lodged and sometimes whole truck loads of sensitive goods (tobacco, liquor, etc.) disappeared and were sold on the black markets. National Customs authorities coping not only with smugglers and organized crime, but also with decreasing budgets and, in some countries, often with de-motivated and inexperienced personnel, have often only limited possibilities to combat effectively such criminal activities with all their consequences for State revenues.
The modifications that entered into force restrict access to the TIR regime only to honest transport operators who must be approved not only by their national transport associations but also by the respective national Customs authorities. Strict reliability criteria for those national associations that are authorized to issue TIR Carnets have also been introduced.
The new TIR regime also enhances transparency of the international insurance system providing the financial back-bone of the system covering Customs duties and taxes at risk during transit. Furthermore, it provides a legal basis for an on-line EDI control for each of the more than 8,000 TIR transport operations carried out per day. Such a control is currently provided by the so-called SAFETIR system operated by the International Road Transport Union (IRU). Further improvements of this electronic control system are being planned in close cooperation with the transport industry.
Additional information on the above issues may be obtained directly from
Mr. R. Ehmcke
Chairman, TIR Executive Board
German Federal Ministry of Finance
Langer Grabenweg 35
D - 53117 BONN
Tel: (+49 228) 682 2457
Fax: (+49 228) 682 2240
Mr. J. Capel Ferrer
Director, Transport Division
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44
Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05
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