Last year, EU officials seized 250 million fake items at its borders. China is the No. 1 source of the pirated goods
The European Commission has urged the public to avoid cheap fake products, as the amount of pirated articles seized at the EU's external borders hit a record high in 2006 something Brussels says is a combination of better working methods as well as a flourishing trade in such goods.
"Counterfeiting continues to constitute a dangerous threat for our health, safety and the economy," EU taxation and customs commissioner Laszlo Kovacs said on Thursday (31 May), adding "the public also has a responsibility here by not being tempted by the cheap fake holiday bargain."
Last year, EU customs officials seized 250 million articles infringing intellectual property rights. Compared to 2005 figures - when 75 million products ended in the hands of border authorities it represents an overall 330 percent increase.
Traditionally, fake cigarettes outnumber any other smuggled product, as they account for 60 percent of all seized goods. Over 156 million packets, an equivalent of 3 billion single cigarettes were seized last year, with potential losses in customs duties and taxes estimated at 460 million.
"Health and safety is a big issue," the commission warned, referring to the illicit trade of cigarettes as well as to a rising influx of pharmaceutical products. Medicines such as Viagra or anti-cholesterol remedies have shown a "particularly worrying" increase from 500,000 items in 2005 to 2.5 million in 2006.
Only counterfeit food and computer equipment showed a decline in the amount seized.
China remains the number one source for counterfeit and pirated goods, accounting for 86 percent of all seized articles. If broken down by sector, India is the main source when it comes to medicines, Turkey dominates in the food sector and Malaysia has taken over the electrical equipment field.
But it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify the country where fake goods are manufactured, as criminals are changing routes and the goods are not shipped directly to the intended market.
In addition, the fight against pirated products has been complicated by booming internet sales something that has boosted postal and air traffic.
"I encourage all stakeholders to continue to cooperate and take actions at all appropriate levels: business, national customs administrations, police and other enforcement authorities", EU commissioner Kovacs said.
"International customs cooperation with our major trading partners, in particularly China and India needs to be further implemented."