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The Belgian migration to SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area)


  • J. Vermeulen

    (National Bank of Belgium, Financial Markets Department)

  • A. Waterkeyn

    (National Bank of Belgium, Financial Markets Department)


The main aim of SEPA (Single European Payment Area) is to promote financial integration in Europe, more particularly in the field of cashless payment services and payment systems. It is intended to enable all economic players (businesses, consumers and public authorities) to effect payments anywhere in the SEPA zone (the 27 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) as easily, securely and efficiently as domestic payments. It must also be possible to execute these payments in accordance with a single regulatory framework within which all players have the same rights and obligations. To that end, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a directive on payment services in the internal market, which has to be transposed into national law by 1 November 2009. The SEPA migration is a process whereby the current national payment instruments are gradually replaced by standardised European instruments. More precisely, European instruments have been developed for credit transfers and direct debits, while a general framework has been set up for payment cards. The development of standards for these payment instruments and the organisation of the migration to SEPA were largely decided by the banking sector. For that purpose, interbank consultation bodies were set up at national and European level, and special structures were created to encourage societal dialogue concerning SEPA and its implementation. In Belgium, the organisational structures behind the SEPA migration are the “Steering Committee on the future of means of payment” and the SEPA interbank Forum. SEPA is being created in phases. The signal for the operational launch was given just over a year ago : since 28 January 2008 it has been possible to use the European transfer to effect payments anywhere in the SEPA area. The banking sector set the launch date for the European direct debit at European level : it will coincide with the date on which the payment services directive has to be transposed into national law, namely 1 November 2009. The success of the launch of the European direct debit on that date will depend mainly on a number of legal aspects, its adoption by the market, and the time taken to implement it in banks and businesses. The SEPA Card Framework is ready and has applied since 1 January 2008, but that has had little or no practical impact on the Belgian market in bank cards. Although the original plan for switching to a new payment card scheme in a single operation was abandoned, the Belgian market is technically ready for the introduction of new card payment schemes.

Suggested Citation

  • J. Vermeulen & A. Waterkeyn, 2009. "The Belgian migration to SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area)," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue ii, pages 69-84, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbb:ecrart:y:2009:m:june:i:ii:p:69-84

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    SEPA (Single European Payment Area); payments instruments; financial integration; Payment Services Directive; banking standards;

    JEL classification:

    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • G20 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - General
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation


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