On November 7, 2019, the State Revenue Service (SRS) and Riga Technical University (RTU) organized a conference “Shaping a Smarter Future of Customs” to celebrate the centenary of Latvia’s Customs Service and the 25th anniversary of customs education. It brought together industry experts from all over the world to discuss current issues relevant to customs development.
The role of customs in the world is changing, with security playing an increasingly important role alongside the function of fiscal and legal facilitation of international trade, affecting both customs and customs clients. Therefore, the conference focused on the role of customs in ensuring security and innovation in customs control. Ricardo Treviño, Deputy Secretary-General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), shared his vision on how customs service is adapting to new threats and opportunities, while Ilze Kuniga, Head of the Customs Policy Unit (TAXUD.A.1), Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union of the European Commission, spoke about the European Commission’s vision for innovation and its role in customs work. The future of Latvia’s Customs was described by Raimonds Zukuls, SRS Deputy Director General in the Field of Customs, Director of the National Customs Board.
Speaking about the development of Latvia’s Customs, Raimonds Zukuls, SRS Deputy Director General in the Field of Customs, Director of the National Customs Board, emphasized: “The paper age, with customs declarations and accompanying documents stored on hundreds of meters of archive shelves, is now in the past. Electronization and automation are a way for the customs to keep up with the speed of movement of goods, while ensuring that restrictions and prohibitions are respected. We have developed state-of-the-art control methods and technologies to protect the EU’s external border and society. The work of customs officers was and will be interesting, responsible, dynamic and international. ”
Extensive discussions on development-relevant issues were held with representatives from the US Customs and Border Protection of the US Department of Homeland Security, the Pan-European Network of Customs Practitioners (PEN-CP), the International Association of Port Community Systems,
neighbouring Customs Services, SRS of Latvia, State Police of Latvia, universities and organizations of Australia, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the NATO Strategic Communication Center of Excellence, and large companies such as “Latvijas Pasts” and “Microsoft”.
The conference was also attended by many international experts who together with the International Business and Customs Institute (SESMI) of RTU have developed professional standards for customs and a unified customs education system in the world. The demand for well-educated customs officers is increasing because of using sophisticated technical solutions and information systems in customs control. Professor Aivars Vilnis Krastiņš, Director of SESMI, spoke about customs education in Latvia.
He emphasized that high-quality customs education can only exist if the educational institution works closely with the customs, while customs can only get qualified staff in cooperation with the educational institution: “When the winds of changes blow, some build wind catchers, but some – windmills. In the winds of changes, Latvia’s Customs and the customs education system were created from scratch, but today Latvia’s Customs has become one of the most developed and educated in the world and is providing assistance to other countries. RTU SESMI and Latvia’s Customs have jointly built a windmill that works successfully in today’s world.”
This year marks 25 years of customs education in Latvia – in 1994 training of customs officers started at RTU SESMI. RTU is the only educational institution in Latvia with an internationally accredited study program “Administration of Customs and Taxes”, which provides higher education in the field of customs and taxation. The unique study program has been developed in cooperation with the World Customs Organization and the SRS of Latvia.
Latvia’s Customs is celebrating its centenary this year. On December 1, 1919, the Central Customs Office of the State of Latvia was established within the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which started centralized management of the activities of the customs authorities and ensured the formation of the customs structure. The establishment and operation of Latvia’s Customs is economically and politically significant in the context of the independence and history of the Republic of Latvia. In the 1920s, both the structure of the Customs Service and the infrastructure of border crossing and customs control were created to enable the Customs to monitor the movement of goods by land and rail, in ports, post offices, Spilve airport.
Since Latvia’s accession to the European Union, when the role of the Customs in replenishing the Treasury diminished, protection of society has come to the forefront. However, the Customs is also involved in protecting the financial interests of the EU Member States and plays an important role in ensuring that operators who are honest participants in international trade benefit from reliefs defined in the normative acts.