Transport and Customs » Transport within the European Union

Transport within the European Union


A theater company in Essen plans a tour through the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. Two drivers are instructed to take a part of the stage décor, costumes, etc. to the individual venues using a rented truck. 

Since January 1, 1994, the European Union has had a common customs law that is based on the so-called customs code. According to this code, movement of goods within the customs territory of the EU is essentially free (with the exception of excise taxes that can be neglected for the purpose of this publication).  

Art, musical intruments and stage décor may be transported within the EU customs territory without having to consider customs formalities.

One exception is the Kulturgutschutzgesetz - KGSG (law on the protection of cultural property, translated by touring artists): Cultural goods, such as art works or musical instruments, having reached certain age and value limits are subject to an export authorization requirement, thus require a specific export license according to EU law for transport within the EU Single Market.
Art works older than 75 years and having a value of more than 300 000 euros are subject to the issue of an export permit, provided that the art work is no longer property of the author.
Concerning musical instruments the reference value is an age limit of more than 50 years and a minimum value of the musical instrument of 50 000 euros, both for temporary as well as for permanent export. However, in case the musical instrument is exported only temporarily, e.g. for the occasion of a concert tour, another more musician-friendly regulation comes into work: the 'specific open license'. This license is valid up to 5 years and allows the export of a certain intrument from Germany to another country as often as desired within this time scope. Detailed information for musicians and cultural professionals is provided here (German only).

However, if the cast were to give a performance in Switzerland and would thus leave the customs territory, certain formalities would have to be considered. This also holds true for transit traffic (s. Transport beyond EU borders). See also the paper Transporting works of art from Germany to Switzerland.

The EU currently has 28 member states. It should be noted that the customs territory of the EU is not the same as its tax territory: The Canary Islands (Spain) and various overseas departments of France (Guadeloupe, Martinique, etc.), for example, are part of the customs territory but not of the tax territory of the EU and are considered third countries for some tax purposes. Therefore, customs formalities must be considered (s. Transport beyond EU borders). 
An overview of the relevant territories and other information is available through the Generalzolldirektion Central Information Unit

The EU customs law has been under consideration for some time. Following a modernisation process, a recast of the Union Customs Code is now at hand: Regulation (EU) No 952/2013. On October 30, 2013, it came into effect and has been applying since May 1, 2016.

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