Strengthening Trust and Cooperation at the Eastern Border of the EU.

Current and Future trends in EU Border Management

By Rimutis Klevečka, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Ambassador at Large

The border environment is complex and comprises a variety of actors with conflicting interests.
Integrated border management describes how improved regulatory efficiency and effectiveness can be realized through better coordination among border agencies [1]. With the increasing mobility of persons and goods in times of fear of pandemic, terrorism and organized crime, states need to ensure the right balance between open, while at the same time secured and controlled borders.

‘Integrated Border Management’ (IBM) can combine these two objectives
A well-functioning process of information exchange between and within border agencies involved in border security and management is one of the main factors contributing to the successful management of the border. Modern IT technologies allows for border agencies smooth, timely and continuous information exchange.

Regional, national initiatives and ongoing projects
Single Window (SW) is one of the key components in a modern border management practice.
In a Single Window implementation, it is especially important to define the scope, objectives, activities, roles, responsibilities, and deliverables in cooperation with all stakeholders.
Successful implementation of SW contribute Modern Border Management, facilitate legitimate trade and ensure safety and security and increasing effective coordination among border agencies.

With respect to the regional experience in employing Single Window in Border Security and Management, the article presents some regional initiatives and ongoing projects:

  • Customs Eastern Land Border Expert Team (CELBET3)
  • Baltic Automated Number Plate Recognition System (ANPRS)
  • Development of joint data exchange network of X-ray scanners used by customs services of Baltic States: BAXE project
  • Port Community Single Window
  • Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

Customs Eastern Land Border Expert Team (CELBET)
Thanks to the Customs 2020 program, 11 countries (participating in the Customs Eastern and South-Eastern Land Border Expert Team (CELBET) exchange best practices and coordinate controls at 174 border crossing points. The idea of CELBET was born in 2014 in Cracow, Poland.

Cracow in the city where nowadays Eleven different countries working together as a team and that what is most important – working out practical and useful operational and management solutions for customs services on land border that is almost 9 300 km long. Thanks to the Customs 2020 program, 11 countries (participating in the Customs Eastern and South-Eastern Land Border Expert Team (CELBET) exchange best practices and coordinate controls at 174 border crossing points.

The project was born because of already well-known and unresolved problems:
• Lack of harmonization – e.g. customs border control and risk management
• Need for changes in current paradigm where every MS acts on its own way
• Need for more uniform approach

Countries participating in the Expert Team: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece.

The Project desired result: ensure high quality and agreed level of the controls at the Eastern EU land border.

CELBET [2] helps to improve the control of external border and preventing the entry of dangerous goods that could be harmful to people or to our environment or to the EU’s, the Member States’ and citizens’ financial interest. The improved controls also contribute to smoother and faster border crossing.

The expert team is working in six areas:

  • risk management
  • operational controls
  • equipment and procurement
  • training,
  • evaluation/performance measurement,
  • Co-operation with border guards and neighboring countries.

CELBET Cooperation Team conducted follow-up mission in border crossing point in Lavoriskes, Lithuania. Representatives of Customs service and Border Guards emphasized benefits of recently implemented pilot of synchronized checks. One of the tangible result is that border crossing time for incoming trucks decreased up to 20%. Lithuanian Customs officers asked truck drivers about their opinion on synchronized checks. The feedback is very positive and highly motivating. This is the best proof that Lithuanian customs and Border Guards with CELBET Cooperation Team’s assistance and support have created a good synergy to provide a better service to our clients.

What is synchronized checks?
One trained and competent authority carries out the first line control on behalf of the others at least in limited and specified cases (for example Border Guard officer performs border and customs control of cars when at the same time Customs officer performs passport control of truck drivers additionally to applying customs procedures). CELBET experts provided significant support for Lithuanian Customs and Border Guard in preparations of the pilot on the solution. One of the tangible result is that border crossing time for incoming trucks decreased up to 20%.

Automated Number Plate Recognition Systems (ANPRS)
The idea of the automated number plate recognition system (hereinafter referred to as the Baltic ANPRS) interface was to make the numbers of vehicles registered in three countries mutually visible and the system could transmit alert messages. In Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia Customs for risk management purpose in 2014 implemented „Baltic Automated Number Plate Recognition System (ANPRS)“ The main idea of the project was use ANPRS as a powerful tool for Risk management process. It might use as component of EU legal acts fraud prevention policy.
Poland has also recently joined to Baltic Automated Number Plate Recognition System (ANPRS) the ANPRS is not the system-for-itself. It is the powerful tool for Risk management process; it used as component of EU legal acts fraud prevention policy Interfacing ANPRS between EE, LV, LT and Poland

Key principles of Interfacing Automatic Number Plate Recognition Systems between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Poland:

  • Automatic exchange of events (border crossing information)
  • Administrative enquiries to another countries (order to carrying out the controls) on EU external border points;
  • Information exchange based on Council Regulation (EC) No 515/97.
    75 recognition points in joined network: Estonia – 29, Latvia – 7, Lithuania – 19, Poland – 20. So far, 9 Mobile equipment kits are installed in patrol vehicles.
    Nearest rollout step – interconnection of joint Baltic ANPRS with similar system used by Finnish customs. We hope that after implementation of internal legal procedures Slovakia, Hungary, Romania also join to ANPRS.
  • Opportunities of expansion and integration of the ANPRS
  • Improvement of traffic organization on land border crossing points
  • Improvement of alarm messages delivery to end users
  • Interlinking of Baltic NPRS with other EU countries
  • Information exchange with OLAF and other EU law enforce-ment agencies.

Baltic X-Ray images Exchange (BAXE) network
What prompted and accelerated the emergence of the BAXE project?

There were no possibility to share image data between scanners and operators in one single interface:

  • All X-ray scanners operated individually
  • Image data was not shared and centralized
  • Lack of possibility for quick exchange of X-ray images between operators
  • Different brands of scanners created images in their own formats
  • No teaching and training software
  • No centralized supervision (at national or EU level)

Main achievements

  • Created tool for exchange of X-ray images
  • Adopted common universal format of X-ray images
  • Implemented common database of X-ray images and infringements detected
  • Introduced tool for teaching and training of X-ray operators
  • Approved facility for X-ray operators ‘training (in Lithuanian Customs Training
  • Center as well as in Latvia Central Customs Office)
  • Introduced possibility of interlinking of Baltic X-ray databases with similar databases in other EU countries
  • Prepared direct access to BAXE data for authorized remote users via web based application
  • Implemented data exchange interface between BAXE and Risk Management System (RIKS) (Lithuania only)
  • Implemented remote X-ray image analysis using BAXE software resources.

Map of scanners involved in BAXE.

BAXE project development perspectives:

  • Integration of the new x-ray scanners in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
  • Integration of the railway x-ray scanners to the BAXE
  • Upgrading the BAXE class by adapting it to work with different software
  • Usage of BAXE training facilities for international trainings
  • Involvement of new countries in the BAXE project
  • Delivery of BAXE Universal Raw Format to the WCO

Port Single Window Concept. Freight and Goods Information System (KIPIS)
KIPIS [3] designed for transferring and processing information on freight movement via the port of Klaipeda. The system is available by more than 500 companies operating in the Port and state enterprises.

Primarily the project focused on economic and social benefits instead of financial ones. The KIPIS system accelerate exchange of data and information between various participants in the logistics chain, and provide conditions to enhance competitive capacity of the port of Klaipeda. The Port Authority obtain statistical information, which it is obliged to provide to the Statistical Office of the European Commission (EUROSTAT) pursuant to the European Council Directive 95/64/EC on statistical returns in respect to carrying goods and passengers by sea. KIPIS will also generate other reports and accounts needed for the Port Authority to make decisions related to strategic port management.

The system’s benefits for the port companies consist of facilitation and acceleration of freight/goods movement through the port by way of exchanging electronic data. The system allows for the elimination over 40 different paper documents going between the ship agency, forwarding, stevedoring companies, customs offices and other state authorities controlling freight and goods traffic. This paperwork includes a variety of permits to import, export, handle and reload goods, handling operations reports, quality certificates and so on. Forwarders, agents, and stevedoring companies will be able to submit and receive electronic documents through a single access point to each other and to the state authorities and institutions without wasting time like the old method.

KIPIS provided the possibility the customs services and other inspection authorities to receive preliminary information and documents for risk assessment and operative, real-time and statistical information on the freights and goods at the port. The features provided by the system help control the port operations in a simpler and easier manner and render better quality public services.

KIPIS Single windows User Groups:

  • Freight forwarders
  • Stevedoring companies (port terminals)
  • Customs
  • State Food and Veterinary Service
  • State Plant Protection Service
  • Klaipeda Public Health Centre
  • State Border Guard Service
  • Fishery Department
  • Klaipeda State Seaport Authority

E-doc‘s per year

Benefits for business:

  • Reduction of physical cargo inspections
  • Saving time of port companies (simplified process)
  • Increase of port competitive advantage
  • Benefits or authorities:
  • Improvement of quality of services
  • More reliable risk assessment
  • Saving human resources
  • Increase of public safety

Lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic

Joint coordinated actions
There is a clear need for joint and coordinated action by the countries of the region in the field of border control in order to reduce the risks of epidemic outbreaks. With the view to possible further developments of the epidemiological situation, common control measures at the external and internal borders, adhering to uniform standards, are beneficial.

Human resources
The regulatory mechanism for mobilizing the forces of other law enforcement institutions (police, customs) to support the SBGS, as set out in the national legislation of the Republic of Lithuania, had an exceptionally positive effect. Cadets of the Border Guard School used to support the SBGS functions. Officials provided with safeguards (masks, gloves, disinfectants) in a situation of market shortage; maximized use of infrastructure and human resources.

Legal framework for border management in case of pandemic
EU Member States have taken action at internal borders due to health threats on their own, as the EU legal framework does not foresee a coordinated action in cases of crisis, such as current pandemic. It became evident, that such legal framework at EU level would contribute to a better crisis management and help addressing the related challenges, including by means of providing necessary financial support to the Member States.

Summary
Presented regional initiatives and ongoing projects with participation of Lithuania border guards, customs and other institutions related to border management, brings us closer to creation internationally recognized border control standards. This innovative approach to border management pays a way to work more efficiently on implementation European and National Integrated border management strategies for states on the Eastern border of EU. Synergies between services, integration of new control measures (personal health control) into the control process needed. The effective operation of border control services to ensure the continuous movement of persons and goods in the event of a pandemic.

References
1.Mariya Polner. Coordinated border management: from theory to practice. World Customs Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, pp. 49-64, September 2011.

  1. The official Twitter page of Customs Eastern and South -Eastern Land Border Expert Team. https://twitter.com/CELBET3
  2. Port of Klaipėda. KIPIS – Freight and Goods Information System https://www.portofklaipeda.lt/kipis-freight-and-goods-information-system/