TIR REGIME SAVED BY THE CUSTOMS AND AEBTRI
The problems regarding cargo transiting through Bulgaria's territory may remain in the past after on Wednesday (June 4) the head of the Customs Agency Assen Assenov and the Director of the Bulgarian branch of the International Association of Hauliers (AEBTRI) Plamen Tsalkov signed a special agreement. The document's clauses envision tightening of the regime for issuing TIR-carnets to hauliers, depriving firms which have violated regulations from TIR-carnets, and exchange of information between the customs and the association. By signing the document the danger of expelling Bulgaria from the TIR regime was eliminated. Warning about that has been recently directed by the Secretary General of the International Union of Automobile Transport Marten Marme. He even paid a visit to Sofia in end-May during which he met with the Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In the end of 2002 Mr. Marme drew down Mr. assenov's anger upon himself by stating that corrupt officicals were employed in the Customs Agency. Bulgaria's disputes with the Union of Automobile Transport, in which AEBTRI participates, date back to the beginning of the 1990s when teh customs presented a long list of unconcluded cartens worth BGN5MN. Part of these liabilities were repaid in 1996 at two tranches of BGN1.5MN each. In the autumn of 2002 tension escalated. The formal occasion were 61 unconcluded carnets worth BGN1,357,000 for import of sugar products from Turkey. The consignees turned out to be fly-by-night companies. The customs duties remained uncollected and the customs issued deeds for compulsory fulfillment by the guarantee AEBTRI. However, the association refused to pay the due amounts and initiated lawsuits, appealing the compulsory fulfillment. The prospects of blocking AEBTRI's accounts forced the International Association of Hauliers to warn Bulgaria that it might be expelled from the TIR regime. A temporary agreement was then closed, but it did not prevent the arguments about the uncompleted carnets in the cases which followed (imports iof TV sets, drumsticks, and powdered milk. By force of the Customs Convention for Cargo Transportation, approved in 1975, AEBTRI is a guarantee of all transit carriage through Bulgaria's territory, effecetd by local and foreifn juristic persons. Thus, any haulier can get a TIR-carnet against SFR70, paid at the association's offices. The TIR-carnet allows the hauliers to transport their goods through the countries which have signed the convention without having to undergo control. AEBTRI guarntees that the due customs duties shall be paid on delivery at the customs of the final destination. Although Bulgaria has been a party of the convetion for almost 30 yeasr now, the convemtions has not been published in the Official Gazette. Therefore, its clauses do not have priority over effective Bulgarian legislation in cases of contraditions. After signing the agreement this week Ms. Assenov and Mr. Tsalkov said in front of journalists that the document would be promulgated in teh near future. This will help to clarify some legal disputes between the customs and the hauliers. One of them is if the customs officers could demand from AEBTRI to pay the dues after the term for settlement under the TIR regime elapses before making everything possible to find out the company to which teh carnet belongs. The problem is that according to Bulgarian legislation, the haulier and the guarantee (AEBTRI in this case) a solidarily responsible to the State. The convention stipulates a certain sequence for claiming the receivables.