In a recent judgment (C-17/16), the European Court of Justice ruled that in regard to the control of cash entering or leaving the European Union, the international transit areas of the airports of Member States are considered EU territory.
The Regulation (EC) No 1889/2005 on controls of cash entering or leaving the Community, lays down harmonised rules for the control of cash entering and leaving the European Union and complements the Money Laundering Directive. As laid down by Article 3, individuals leaving or entering the European Union, both EU nationals and non-EU nationals, are obliged to declare cash of a value of €10 000 or more to competent authorities.
The case at issue concerns a third-country national instructed by a moral person to transport American dollars from Cotonou (Benin) to Beirut (Lebanon) by aeroplane, with a transit stop at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport.
The question referred to the ECJ by the Court of Cassation (France) is whether the obligation to declare is applicable in the international transit area of an airport of a Member State.
The ECJ held that on the one hand,” the airports of Member States are part of that geographical area, and therefore part of EU territory” (the geographical space referred to in Article 52 TEU and Article 355 TFEU) and on the other hand, “In the absence of detail as to the territorial scope of an act of secondary legislation (I.e. Regulation EC No 1889/2005) ,that scope must be determined on the basis of those provisions, since the secondary legislation applies in principle to the same area as the Treaties themselves and applies automatically in that area.”
Underlining that “the interpretation of the obligation to declare applies in the international transit areas of airports located within the territory of the European Union is also consistent with the objective pursued by that regulation.”, the ECJ concluded that the international transit areas of the airports of Member States must not be excluded from the scope of Regulation (EC) No 1889/2005 and as a consequence,” a natural person disembarking from an aircraft coming from a third State in an airport in the territory of a Member State and waiting in the international transit area of that airport before boarding another aircraft heading to another third State is in possession of a sum equal to or greater than EUR 10 000 in cash when he enters the European Union, he is subject to the obligation to declare.”
It must be noted that, the information can be provided in writing, orally, or electronically and must identify the declarant, the owner of the cash, amount and nature of the cash, the provenance and its intended use. Any undeclared cash may be detained by the administrative authorities.