The Political Drivers
The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is a European Union (EU) policy-maker-driven integration initiative - it is not a demand-driven process. It requires the political will and mandate to achieve it. To make SEPA a success, it is therefore essential that the political drivers, i.e. the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU representing EU governments and the European Central Bank, create the incentives needed to facilitate the transition for payment service users.
For more information, see ‘SEPA at a Glance: the Infographic'. This infographic provides a timeline highlighting key milestones of SEPA roll-out and an overview of the actors involved in the SEPA process at the European level and their interaction.
To learn more about the rationale for SEPA as defined by the EU governments and EU institutions driving the SEPA programme, refer to this EPC Newsletter article: ‘SEPA Fact Check: The SEPA Benefits Projected by EU Governments, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (1999 - 2013)’ (see link below).
The European Commission represents the general interest of the EU. The European Commission is the driving force in proposing EU legislation (to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU representing EU governments), administering and implementing EU policies, enforcing EU law (jointly with the Court of Justice) and negotiating in the international arena. Since 2001, the EU co-legislators, i.e. the European Parliament and the Council of the EU representing EU governments, adopted several legislative acts proposed by the Commission designed to drive forward the integration of the euro payments market. For more information, refer to this dedicated page on the EPC Website: SEPA Legal and Regulatory Framework.
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 Website below).
To learn more about the role of the European Commission in the evolution of the SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) Schemes, refer to this dedicated page on the EPC Website: SCT / SDD Rulebook Release Management and Scheme Development.
The European Parliament is the only directly-elected body of the EU. It called on the European Commission in March 2009 and again in March 2010 “to set a clear, appropriate and binding end-date (...) for migrating to SEPA instruments, after which all payments in euro must be made using the SEPA standards”. The European Parliament organises its work through a system of specialised committees. EU legislation proposed by the European Commission related to SEPA is considered by the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) prior to the European Parliament taking a vote on a proposal.
On 20 December 2011, negotiators on behalf of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU representing EU governments and the European Commission agreed that the forthcoming ‘Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro’ (the SEPA Regulation) would define 1 February 2014 as the deadline in the euro area for compliance with this Regulation. In a press release published on that day (see link below), the European Parliament reiterated: “SEPA is a fundamental element of the internal market. The internal market cannot function well without SEPA. Moreover SEPA will provide the basis for other developments in the single market. (...) the EU institutions continue to work diligently to deepen the internal market in financial services, with the euro at its core.”
The SEPA Regulation was formally adopted by the EU co-legislators, i.e. the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, in February 2012 and entered into force in March 2012.
Council of the EU representing EU governments
The Council of the EU is the EU institution where the Member States’ government representatives sit, i.e. the ministers of each EU Member State with responsibility for a given policy area. It meets in various configurations, each dealing with a number of fixed policy areas. The Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) is composed of the finance ministers of the EU Member States. The ECOFIN considers EU legislation proposed by the European Commission related to SEPA. The ECOFIN has frequently stressed that “the full benefits of SEPA can only be obtained through the full migration of existing national euro payments transactions”. With its conclusions on SEPA adopted in May 2013 (see link below), the ECOFIN again reiterated its support for the aim of SEPA, i.e. “to achieve an integrated, competitive and innovative internal market for retail payment services in euro in the EU”.
European Central Bank / Eurosystem
The European Central Bank (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, and in line with its mandate to promote the smooth operation of payment systems, the ECB has steered the SEPA process since its inception. 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 SEPA indicators available on the ECB website track the rate of SEPA market uptake.
In 2010, the European Commission together with the ECB established the SEPA Council, which brought together representatives from both the demand and supply sides of the payments market, including the European Payments Council (EPC). The SEPA Council promoted 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. On 19 December 2013 the ECB announced the launch of the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB). This new entity, which replaces the SEPA Council, will help foster the development of an integrated, innovative and competitive market for retail payments in euro in the EU. For more information on the ERPB, refer to the links below ('European Central Bank Website: Governance').
The ECB exercises the oversight of the SCT and SDD Schemes.
Selection of articles from the EPC Newsletter and other sources
- SEPA Fact Check: The SEPA Benefits Projected by EU Governments, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (1999 - 2013). Note: the European Payments Council is not part of the EU institutional framework
- European Commission Website: Commission's Role in SEPA
- European Parliament Press Release of 20 December 2011: ‘Cheaper, Faster and Safer Cross-border Payment Services’
- Council of the European Union Website
- Economic and Financial Affairs Council (EU Finance Ministers): SEPA Conclusions of December 2009
- Economic and Financial Affairs Council (EU Finance Ministers): SEPA Conclusions of May 2013
- European Central Bank Website: Retail Payments
- European Central Bank Website: Governance
- European Central Bank: Oversight Frameworks for Credit Transfer and Direct Debit Schemes
- EPC Website Knowledge Bank: Statements and Documents Related to SEPA Issued by EU Authorities