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Belgium’s progress towards SEPA – the Single Euro Payments Area


  • J. Vermeulen

    (National Bank of Belgium)


The self-regulatory nature of the SEPA has not in itself been sufficient to achieve a swift transition to the European credit transfers and direct debits. It is for this reason that the European authorities have taken the initiative to pass legislation governing the migration to the Single Euro Payments Area. The Regulation establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro, which entered into force on 31 March 2012, sets a common end-date, 1 February 2014, after which credit transfers and direct debits must be executed in SEPA format. As for progress with the migration to SEPA in Belgium, the share of European credit transfers had reached 60 % of the total number of credit transfers made in October 2012, a much higher proportion than in most other European countries. The public authorities and the majority of big-billing companies have completed their migration; it is now up to small and medium-sized enterprises to make the changeover. The migration to the European direct debit has been more laborious. However, at the end of 2011, one of Belgium’s biggest billers started it, thus boosting the proportion of European direct debits in the total of Belgian banker’s direct debits to between 12 and 15 %. Only a very small number of creditors control the vast majority of direct debits. The business group which must be the focus of efforts to achieve an almost total migration is confined to a small and more easily manageable group of creditors, and this has made it possible to pursue a precisely targeted communication strategy. Slowly but surely, the Belgian payment systems landscape is adapting to the reality of the SEPA. On the one hand, the process of unbundling is under way in the processing of card transactions. In this context, the Bancontact/Mister Cash (BCMC) domestic debit card system has been rolled over and will be adapted to the SEPA standards. And, on the other hand, the clearing system for retail payments has been outsourced to a major foreign supplier of payment services. Belgium is thus one of the first countries to have achieved the planned consolidation of clearing arrangements.

Suggested Citation

  • J. Vermeulen, 2012. "Belgium’s progress towards SEPA – the Single Euro Payments Area," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue iii, pages 45-68, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbb:ecrart:y:2012:m:december:i:iii:p:45-68

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Deborah Nusche, 2009. "What Works in Migrant Education?: A Review of Evidence and Policy Options," OECD Education Working Papers 22, OECD Publishing.
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    More about this item


    SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area); payment instruments; financial integration; SEPA end-date Regulation; SEPA area; SEPA credit transfer; SEPA direct debit; Centre for Exchange and Clearing; SEPA Council; IBAN; ISO 20022; SEPA milestones;

    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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