Math Formula

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

About The Freedom Of Goods

Chapter 2 of "TITLE I - Free movement of goods" of the Consolidated version of the Treaty establishing the European Community provides the basis for one of the four major pillars of what is referred to as the Single Market.

According to,
... controls on the movement of goods within the internal market have been abolished and the European Union is now a single territory without internal frontiers.
The abolition of customs tariffs promotes intra-Community trade, which accounts for a large part of the total imports and exports of the Member States.
Articles 28 and 29 of the Treaty establishing the European Community prohibit import and export restrictions between all Member States. However, if there is a threat to public health or the environment, Member States may restrict the free movement of goods.
This renders the EU a customs union, a special type of free trade area. Well, good and nice - as long as you find yourself on the lucky side of globalization, and as long as you don't happen to live in a country which is implicitly excluded from the union, by not being explicitly included. Like, say, Bosnia for example, in which case even purchasing a kindle via Amazon can become quite lengthy a process.

I will not dive into the pros and cons of free trade vs. protectionism now (oh, just found there is an entire article dedicated to the free trade debate on Wikipedia). Instead, I want to tell you how surprised I was again this week.

As some of you might remember, I bought a motorbike a while ago. Since I found that registering a vehicle can be quite complex a task for a foreigner in Bosnia (and, I assume, in most other countries too), this bike is now registered on a local friend's name. Recently, I talked to two Austrian custom experts, about me driving to Austria with 'my' BiH bike. Bang! Shake-heads, absolutely no, how can I even think about it (that's the young, naive European again), no way!

Just to be clear: Even with a written permission from the owner, I (as a citizen of an EU member state) must not 'import' any vehicle from a third-country ... and in that context, simply driving the vehicle across the border, and be it just for one hour, is 'importing' already.

I must confess, this requires me to rethink the entire idea of 'importing'. For me, that was rather permanent a thing, i.e., with the intent of using something for an extended period, or selling it. On the contrary, the liability to declare a good already arises by simply moving the good across the border, disregarding intended duration and purpose.

But, you might think, what happens if my friend rides the bike across the border, and I just use it afterwards? Well, I was informed, that's "abusive usage" then, representing a criminal act from both of us ...

Thinking the other way round, the same is true if I lend my Austrian car to a friend here - "abusive usage"! I'm neither a lawyer nor a customs expert (however I'm guilty of istism right now), and I guess there is some rationale behind that interpretation (am I also guilty of being naive now?), but my common sense simply cannot see anything wrong about it. It is my friends bike, and he is lending it to me, so why should I not drive to Austria, or any other place I want to?

I don't know whether the EU in general is too positively perceived at the moment, but giving me the freedom to lend my stuff to whomever I want, for whichever purpose I want, is clearly a great thing ... and that is what the Freedom of Goods is all about.

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