The European Commission put the harmonisation of the payments infrastructure on its agenda in the early 1990s in order to increase the efficiency of European financial transactions. These initiatives resulted in SEPA in January 2008.
The European Commission initiates the process
- Regulation 2560/2001: charges for cross-border European payments cannot exceed the charges in effect for domestic payments.
- A draft in 2001 sets out the basic outline of the Payment Services Directive (PSD): cross-border payments within the European Union must be as simple and secure as domestic payments within Member States.
The Central Bank coordinates the project
The European Central Bank (ECB) plays a proactive role in coordinating this project. The ECB sets two deadlines:
In February 2012, the European Parliament adopts the SEPA End-Date Regulation, which is directly applicable in SEPA countries. It sets 1 February 2014 as the cut-off date for the use of domestic payment mechanisms. The SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) and European credit transfer will be the standard mechanisms to be used.
The European banking sector turns the project into reality
As a direct consequence of the European Commission initiatives, the European banking sector set up the European Payments Council (EPC) in 2002. This is made up of 60 European banks and payment institutions and its aim is to implement the single payments area:
European Regulation (pdf)
European Payment Services Directive (PSD)