In the context of the SWEAP project to coordinate inspector exchanges, early 2020, the Austrian competent authority — the Federal Ministry for Climate action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology BMK –, proposed the Swiss competent authority — the Federal Office for the Environment FOE –, to collaborate in a joint customs control action between the two countries. Due to Covid-19, this action could not take place on the date initially planned. The event was therefore postponed to September 16, 2020.
The joint action took place at the border between St-Margrethen and Schaanwald at the northern border between Switzerland/Liechtenstein and Austria.
Two different strategies were used to respond to the low level of waste imports into Switzerland and to increase the opportunity to control as much transports as possible. It was decided, in collaboration between the two authorities, to organise the control action as follows:
- Austrian customs officers and the representatives of the Federal Ministry inspect all imports into Austria crossing the border at Schaanwald/Feldkirch in the morning and at Diepoldsau in the afternoon.
- Swiss customs officers inspect all imports into Switzerland and select some exports crossing the borders between St-Margrethen and Schaanwald. If an irregularity was detected, the Swiss customs officers contacted the representatives of the Federal Office for the Environment based at the customs center in Austria.
- The representatives of the FOEN control all import and export crossing the frontier at the border in Austria.
Conclusions of inspections and outcomes
This joint control showed that, as suspected by the statistics available, the border between Switzerland and Austria iwass not a privileged passage for the transport of waste. The majority of imports/exports were notified municipal waste, paper and cardboard and ferrous metals.
Furthermore, the results of this control showed that the requirements by the regulations were mainly fulfilled and respected and that most waste transports were carried out in compliance with the laws. Nevertheless, one transport could be emphasised: the load was described as compost and accompanied by an annex VII. This transport was considered as non-conform by the two authorities. However, the conclusion on the measures to be taken diverged: the Swiss authorities authorised the transport to cross the border, classifying the load as a product. Indeed, a treatment had already taken place on Swiss soil and the load was intended to be sold as potting soil. On the other side, the formal lack of product data sheet and analysis was deemed illegal by the Austrian authorities and therefore the load was sent back to Switzerland.
In conclusion, this border control highlighted the good cooperation between the two countries and the dedication of the customs officers, without whom this joint action could not have taken place.
SWEAP is led by the IMPEL network.