The Commission's director-general for budget, Hervé Jouanjean, made a reservation to his statement of assurance because of doubts about the reliability of clearance and accounting procedures and systems in Belgium, which in turn create doubts about customs revenues passed on to the EU.
The EU's own resources include customs duties levied on imports to the EU plus sugar levies. The customs offices of the national governments collect the customs duties and are permitted to keep 25% of the revenue for the national purse.
Shortcomings in Belgium's clearance and accounting systems have been known to the Commission since 2008, when inspections revealed problems with the way Belgium accounts for customs revenue. Belgium was supposed to have remedied these problems; but an audit by the EU's Court of Auditors in February 2011 showed discrepancies between the customs duties transferred by Belgium to the EU budget and the amounts recorded by the Belgian authorities. In June 2011, the Belgian government reclaimed close to €169 million in customs revenue that it said had been mistakenly transferred to the EU. Some 34,000 customs declarations that had been annulled and replaced by revised declarations had been counted double. In November 2011, the Belgian authorities submitted a plan of action to correct its weaknesses, and the Commission is monitoring its implementation.
The Commission says that it cannot put a monetary value on these possible irregularities, but that it might be above 1% of traditional own resources. Last year, Belgium contributed €1.6 billion in traditional own resources to the EU budget – 9.5% of the total transferred by member states to the EU budget's own resources (€16.8bn).