One of the Eurosystem’s basic tasks is to promote the smooth operation of payment systems. The legal basis for the Eurosystem’s competence in the area of payment systems is contained in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. According to the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank, "the ECB and the national central banks may provide facilities, and the ECB may make regulations, to ensure efficient and sound clearing and payment systems within the Union and with other countries".
The Eurosystem uses its expertise as well as contacts with the private sector and other public authorities to improve overall market efficiency. The Eurosystem is keen to help the industry find safe and effective payment, clearing and settlement solutions for the euro area. An important example of the Eurosystem’s catalyst work is its contribution to the creation of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).
Since 2002 it has been possible to make all cash payments throughout the euro area using a single currency. Likewise, it should also be possible to make non-cash euro payments using a single set of payment instruments, both within and across borders. SEPA will achieve this.
By harmonising the way non-cash euro payments are made, SEPA will promote the smooth operation of payment systems. In addition, SEPA will complete the introduction of the euro as the single currency of the euro area and enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of the European economy as a whole. All this explains the strong interest that the Eurosystem has in SEPA.
The Eurosystem supports the development of SEPA by: