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The Single Euro Payments Area : SEPA


  • H. Maillard

    (National Bank of Belgium)

  • J. Vermeulen

    (National Bank of Belgium, Financial Markets Department)


SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) is a new step in the move towards financial integration in Europe. SEPA will harmonise the use of payment instruments (credit transfers, direct debits and card payments) throughout SEPA (the 27 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). All the economic actors will be able to make cross-border euro payments in the same way as domestic euro payments, with the same obligations and liabilities. The European Commission has created a harmonised legal framework for payment services and the European Payments Council (EPC), unifying the banking sector, directs the process under a self-regulating regime. The Eurosystem monitors progress and developments in its catalyst role. For each of the SEPA payment instruments, the EPC has developed standards : “Rulebooks” for the credit transfer and direct debit payment instruments and a more general framework for card payments. Ultimately, the same credit transfer and direct debit payment instruments will be available and accessible to all users. Any SEPA payment cards will be accepted at any terminal in SEPA. Infrastructures will have to be adapted to meet the new payment standards, and consolidation is likely. SEPA is being created in phases. The design phase is now finished and from January 2008 onwards banks will offer their customers the SEPA Credit Transfer in parallel with the existing national credit transfer. The SEPA Direct Debit will be launched in November 2009. By the end of 2010, the use of the national payment instruments should cease. For cards, banks will need up to the end of 2010 to streamline all standards. From 2011 onwards, only SEPA cards will be issued. In Belgium, the SEPA project is organised on two different levels : from a banking perspective and on a more general level with all stakeholders in the economy. A migration plan has been published and is regularly updated. Thanks to its long tradition of interbank cooperation, the Belgian banking sector is one of the leading banking communities in the migration to SEPA in Europe.

Suggested Citation

  • H. Maillard & J. Vermeulen, 2007. "The Single Euro Payments Area : SEPA," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue ii, pages 47-61, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbb:ecrart:y:2007:m:september:i:ii:p:47-61

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    More about this item


    SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area); payment instruments; financial integration; Payment; Services Directive; banking standards; EPC (European Payments Council).;

    JEL classification:

    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • G20 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - General


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