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Towards a Single Euro Payments Area – third progress report

2 December 2004

In its third progress report on the single euro payments area (SEPA), which is published today, the Governing Council of the ECB assesses recent developments in the efforts to transform the still largely fragmented national retail payment systems into a single euro payment area. The objective of a SEPA is to enable European citizens to make payments throughout the whole area from a single bank account, using a single set of payment instruments, as easily and safely as in the national context today. For the customer, it should not make any difference where or with which bank in the euro area the account is held. The Eurosystem’s vision for the SEPA, hence, is that all euro area payments should become domestic. They should be as safe and efficient as payments made through the best-performing national payment systems today. Establishing a pan-European infrastructure for the SEPA would increase overall efficiency due to economies of scale.

In the White Paper of May 2002, 42 European banks and the European credit sector associations clearly expressed a similar vision. The Eurosystem welcomed the forming of a European Payments Council[1] (EPC) by the banks in June 2002, aiming to fully achieve the SEPA by 2010. This would include the development of a complete set of pan-European instruments, to be available by end-2007. In this regard, the Eurosystem recommends that these instruments be made available as an option for national payments to individuals and enterprises as early as 2008, without having to change the national infrastructure at that stage. In this way, the SEPA for the citizen would already be achieved. A full migration for banks and their customers to pan-European solutions would be achieved by end-2010.

It is clearly the EPC’s responsibility to specify the SEPA objectives and the national banking communities’ responsibility to define and implement the national migration plan. The Eurosystem strongly supports the EPC’s goal to develop and implement pan-European payment instruments, starting with credit transfers, direct debits and debit cards.

In addition, the Eurosystem invites the national banking communities in the euro area to:

  • present convincing arrangements for the implementation of EPC decisions at the domestic level (no later than six months after their adoption at EPC level);
  • present to the EPC, during 2005, a national migration plan for the gradual transition to the SEPA by end-2010.

The euro area national central banks stand ready to contribute to the local implementation of the SEPA objectives. The EPC should monitor each national banking community’s contribution to the SEPA. The Governing Council intends to monitor progress regularly.

The report entitled "Towards a Single Euro Payments Area – (3rd) Progress report" (published today in English) will be available in other official Community languages in due course.

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