GIBRALTAR (GibChronicle) The European Commission said it had no reason to believe that Spanish customs checks at the border with Gibraltar breached EU rules, adding that controls targeting “high-risk goods” like tobacco could lead to delays.The Commission was responding to questions tabled in the European Parliament by Gibraltar’s Liberal Democrat MEP, Sir Graham Watson, who had asked the Commission to look into the recent indiscriminate checks on motorbike riders implemented by the Guardia Civil as part of a clampdown on cigarette smuggling. “The Commission does not routinely monitor the customs checks performed by the national authorities at the EU external borders and, lacking any evidence to the contrary, has no reason to doubt that Spain is taking the necessary measures to ensure that EU rules are applied effectively, and that the selection for custom controls is based on ‘risk management’ factors as provided for in the customs legislation,” said Algirdas Šemeta, the Commissioner responsible for taxation and customs union, audit and anti-fraud.>>>
“If, however, the Honourable Member can provide details of why he considers that the checks referred to in his question may breach EU rules the Commission will naturally be willing to examine the circumstances and, if necessary, raise the matter with the relevant authorities.”
Mr Šemeta noted that Gibraltar was not part of the customs union or the Schengen area, and added: “While agreeing that efficient border management should allow for smooth flows of legitimate trade and movement of persons across external borders, controls may involve delays affecting traffic and citizens, and all the more so if these controls are intensified in order to identify high risk-goods such as tobacco.”
Sir Graham had also asked whether the Commission had considered introducing separate channels, similar to those at airports, to ensure citizens without goods to declare were delayed as little as possible.
In his written response, which was published last week, Mr Šemeta said decisions to provide for separate lanes at land borders were taken by individual EU member states, adding that there was no legal obligation to have them in place.
Sir Graham tabled his questions in November after the Guardia Civil implemented tight checks that led to long tailbacks in Gibraltar and lengthy waits for motorbike riders crossing into Spain.
Spanish officials stated at the time that they wer