The Political Initiators
The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is a European Union (EU) policy-maker-driven integration initiative - it is not a demand-driven process. To make SEPA a success, it is therefore essential that the political initiators of the SEPA process create the incentives needed to facilitate the transition for payment service users. The publication 'Shortcut to Who Does What in SEPA' (see below) published by the European Payments Council provides an overview of the main actors involved in the SEPA process at a European level and describes their specific responsibilities.
The European Commission represents the general interest of the EU and is the driving force in proposing legislation (to the European Parliament and the Council representing EU Member States), administering and implementing EU policies, enforcing EU law (jointly with the Court of Justice) and negotiating in the international arena. As the political driver of SEPA, the European Commission and, in particular, the Directorate General Internal Market and Services, monitors the progress of SEPA migration in EU Member States and publishes annual SEPA migration progress reports. In close cooperation with the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission issued the communication: 'Completing SEPA: a Roadmap for 2009 - 2012'. This roadmap identifies the actions to be completed by all stakeholders (EU and national authorities, industry and end-users) in the following areas: (1) fostering migration; (2) increasing awareness and promoting SEPA products; (3) designing a sound legal environment and ensuring compliance; (4) promoting innovation; (5) achieving standardisation and interoperability and (6) clarifying and improving SEPA project governance.
The European Commission chairs the EU Forum of National SEPA Coordination Committees (EU Forum), which provides an opportunity for national SEPA coordination committees to familiarise themselves with the activities of their European counterparts, debate issues of common interest with the EU institutions and exchange information and good practices about SEPA migration (for more information see the link to the European Commission SEPA page below).
The European Commission, together with the ECB established the SEPA Council, which brings together representatives from both the demand and supply sides of the payments market, including the European Payments Council (EPC). The SEPA Council promotes the realisation of an integrated euro retail payments market by ensuring high level stakeholder involvement and by fostering consensus on the next steps towards the finalisation of SEPA (for more information see the links to the SEPA Council below).
To learn more about the role of the European Commission in the evolution of the SEPA payment schemes, refer to the next section on this page.
European legislator adopts SEPA Regulation
On 30 March 2012, the 'Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro and amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009' (the SEPA Regulation) (see below) was published in the Official Journal of the EU.
On 28 February 2012, the Council of the EU (the Council) representing EU Member States adopted the SEPA Regulation. The European Parliament adopted this Regulation on 14 February 2012. Under the ordinary legislative procedure (formerly known as co-decision), EU legislation is adopted by the Council (made up of representatives of the 27 EU Member States) and the European Parliament (made up of 754 directly elected members).
The SEPA Regulation defines 1 February 2014 as the deadline in the euro area for compliance with the core provisions of this Regulation. Effectively, this means that as of this date, existing national euro credit transfer and direct debit schemes will be replaced by SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit (SDD).
The SEPA Regulation redefines the process governing the evolution of the SCT and SDD Schemes. This means that the schemes will have to comply with the technical requirements detailed in Article 5 and in the Annex to the SEPA Regulation. The SEPA Regulation empowers the European Commission to amend the technical requirements set out in the Annex to the Regulation through delegated acts. 'Delegated acts' are a new addition to the EU decision-making landscape. They were introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in December 2009 and more specifically, by Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Whereas European legislation is adopted by the EU legislator, Article 290 TFEU allows the Council representing EU Member States and European Parliament to delegate the power to adopt non-legislative acts to the European Commission (the executive body). For more information, refer to this dedicated page on the EPC Website: SCT / SDD Rulebook Release Management and Scheme Development.
The SEPA Regulation is the fourth major regulatory intervention within a decade designed to achieve a harmonised euro payments market as envisioned by the EU authorities. For details, refer to this dedicated page on the EPC Website: SEPA Legal and Regulatory Framework.
ECB / Eurosystem
The ECB is the central bank for Europe's single currency, the euro. The Eurosystem is made up of the ECB and the national central banks (NCBs) of those countries that have adopted the euro. In its role as a catalyst for the integration of the euro payments market, the ECB has long argued that the monetary union remains incomplete until Europe converts to common electronic euro money across all forms of payment. The ECB actively monitors the progress of SEPA in close dialogue with the political authorities, the banking industry and payment service users. The ECB also publishes regular SEPA Progress Reports. The ECB SEPA indicators available on the ECB website also track the rate of SEPA market uptake.
In 2000, EU governments jointly undersigned the Lisbon Agenda which served as the launch pad for the SEPA initiative. National governments are therefore called upon to facilitate SEPA implementation at national, regional and local level. EU governments should take the following steps:
- Require the use of SEPA payment schemes and technical standards in public procurements for payment services, allowing banks to deliver SEPA payment services to any public administration and government agency in SEPA.
- Educate the general public on the SEPA objectives at national level. This is the prime responsibility of the political authorities - such as EU governments - driving EU integration.
Selection of articles from the EPC Newsletter and other sources
- EPC Publication: Shortcut to Who Does What in SEPA
- EPC Blog: SEPA 2.0. The New Regulatory Reality Governing the Integration of the Euro Payments Market
- EPC Blog: SEPA and EU Governments - a Love-Hate Thing? Efforts Must be Stepped Up to Communicate the SEPA Objectives at National Level
- European Commission SEPA Page
- European Central Bank SEPA Page
- SEPA Council Page of the European Commission
- SEPA Council Page of the European Central Bank
- Economic and Financial Affairs Council (EU Finance Ministers): SEPA Conclusions of December 2009
- Economic and Financial Affiars Council (EU Finance Ministers): SEPA Conclusions of May 2013
- EPC Website Knowledge Bank: Statements and Documents Related to SEPA Issued by EU Authorities