EU puts pressure on Ukraine to stop tobacco smuggling

Since the EU-Ukraine visa-free zone took effect in 2017, there have been reports of an increase in good being smuggled through the Ukraine into Europe. This includes cigarettes from outside the EU, from countries like China and the UAE.

Because of this, the EU has been putting more pressure on the Ukraine to stop tobacco smuggling. It also wants the Ukraine to criminalise smuggling in line with the commitments it made under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

According to OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud agency, the number of cigarettes seized decreased in 2018 compared to the previous year. However, leaders say that the numbers are still too high and this is an issue that was raised at last week’s EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv.

Leaders at the summit said they recognise the “urgent need to re-criminalise illicit enrichment and to ensure the necessary independence and effective functioning of all anti-corruption institutions.”

The Ukraine agreed, and said that a new law will be adopted by November this year. In addition, the Ukraine agreed that it would keep the EU up to date with any new developments surrounding the problem.

After the summit, an EU official noted: “This contains antifraud provisions and a Protocol on mutual administrative assistance in customs matters. In this respect, the Commission is supportive of Ukraine’s approximation of their excise duty rates to those levels applied in the EU and the criminalisation of tobacco smuggling.”

Tomislav Sokol, a Croatian MEP added: “The legislative tool to amend this is a bill which has been sitting in parliament for a while and needs to be voted on now. It would introduce criminal responsibility for smuggling, for goods that exceed GBP 11,000, and grants the national police jurisdiction over smuggling cases.”

“Almost 10% of those cigarettes come from Ukraine, which is the number one source country. Based on the statements made by the Zelensky administration on this issue, there seems to be a willingness to tackle this ongoing issue. But now the words need to be translated into concrete policy actions.”

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