PRESS RELEASE

Publication of the Blue book on EU accession countries

31 August 1999

The European Central Bank (ECB) is today releasing to the public a report entitled "Payment systems in countries that have applied for membership of the European Union". The publication has been prepared in co-operation with the central banks of Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. It provides comprehensive information on the major payment and securities settlement systems operating in the applicant countries.

The availability of information on these systems is of utmost importance for central banks as well as for market participants. Every central bank has a direct interest in the efficiency and prudent design and management of any payment and securities settlement system operating in its own currency. The smooth functioning of these systems is of great importance for the functioning of the financial markets and is crucial to the maintenance of banking and financial stability. Market participants must know how the payment infrastructure works in order to be able truly to address efficiency issues and the management of operational and settlement risks. For European Union (EU) countries, this kind of information has been made available in the report entitled "Payment systems in the European Union", also known as the "Blue Book", the second edition of which was published by the European Monetary Institute in April 1996.

To facilitate an easy comparison of the systems operating in countries that have applied for EU membership with those existing in the current EU Member States, the publication has been structured in a similar way to the Blue Book of 1996. Each country chapter provides an overview of institutional aspects and the major parties involved, and there are extensive descriptions of the payment media used by non-banks, retail payment systems, interbank exchange and settlement systems, and securities settlement systems. The statistical tables provide country-specific data for the years 1993 to 1997, while the comparative tables covering all 11 countries are based on figures for 1996 and 1997.

The information provided shows that extensive restructuring work in payment and securities settlement systems has been undertaken in recent years in the applicant countries and that in many countries further work is being undertaken to ensure a smooth entry into and operation within the European Union environment.

Within the field of payment systems, the publication of this report marks an important milestone in the deepening of co-operation with the central banks of countries that have applied for EU membership.

The report will be distributed by each of the EU and applicant country national central banks to interested parties in their respective countries. It can be accessed via the ECB's Web site (http://www.ecb.europa.eu). Copies are also available from the ECB at the following address:

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