EU4Digital team visits Montenegro to learn about customs data exchange system in Western Balkans

  • Date: 13/09/19
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A team of EU4Digital eCustoms experts, together with customs officials from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova, travelled to Podgorica in July for a fact-finding visit to the Montenegrin Customs Administration to learn about the benefits of the SEED electronic data exchange system and see how it is implemented in practice on the Montenegro-Albania border.

Lidija Mijović, Assistant Director for customs security and control, welcomed the participants and introduced the scope of the SEED (Systematic Electronic Exchange of Data) system: Montenegro has 840km in external borders, with 24 border crossing points, 12 inland terminals, and land borders with 4 non-EU countries. The level of engagement needed to develop the system is significant, but so are the benefits. 

Mijović highlighted SEED as a powerful, modern solution for data exchange and risk analysis, enabling cross-border customs administrations to exchange customs-related information in an automated way and in real time, enhancing their administrative capacities on IT and risk analysis, increasing revenue and preventing and combating illegal trade, while strengthening regional cooperation and trust.

The European Commission has said the SEED project has “significantly contributed to overcome the inefficiencies in the Western Balkans’ border management systems, contributing to reduce the security risks in the area.”

Partner customs administrations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have all been using SEED intensively both for risk analysis as well as customs control, especially in preventing non-declaring, smuggling and undervaluing of goods. Over the years the system has been enhanced, providing great possibilities for expanding to additional functionalities, including: 

  • Cross-border cash flow functionality (including fields for money declaration, declarant/owner, description and provenance of cash, transport information), 
  • VAT module (VAT refunds in passengers traffic), 
  • Carnet ATA module (Module which supports entire workflow of ATA Carnets), 
  • Intellectual Property rights software – INES+ compatible with COPIS. 

The system is implemented in such a way as to support the entire data set from each type of Customs document: functions are activated on the basis of necessity (and technical capabilities) and on request of the neighbouring Customs Administration. The system is a flexible tool that was adapted over the years to the needs of participating Beneficiary Administrations and their willingness to share data. 

Due to the different levels of IT development, national legislative systems and various needs of partner administrations, bilateral Memorandums of Understanding have been concluded among participants to introduce a legal basis of customs information exchange. 

The SEED system is coordinated at the central level, and fully integrated into the custom IT system, and is integrated into procedures at the local level at all Border Crossing Points.

Brief facts about SEED solution:  

  • software infrastructure: ESB – Enterprise Service Bus (which implements the communication system between mutually interacting software applications in the service oriented architecture using the open source project “Open ESB”). It is supported by the interface Enterprise Messaging System (EMS) the Business logic for processing all XML messages;
  • has its database, complementary to National Customs Information Systems (CIS), contains info from all bordering countries. National systems remain the same. Traders submit documents to National CIS;
  • possible to take data from it and use the data in own National IT systems;
  • capturing data on some predefined triggers;
  • data in common structure(agreed data standard among all countries). It’s common for everybody, based on EU data model, WCO data model;
  • Empty trucks are managed automatically. Matching of all flow.