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Sepa’s Time To Shine
With so much speculation on the future of the Euro as a key global currency – or even its very existence – it’s perhaps timely to take a look at one of the most important initiatives of the entire Eurozone. The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) sets out to totally transform payment services in Europe.
Until the Euro was introduced for the first time, each and every one of the countries of Europe had separate payment systems and separate currencies. Irish payment systems were predominantly debit transactions (cheques, direct debits, cards) whereas in Europe, Credit transactions predominate.
From 2002, however, euro banknotes brought standardisation of cash throughout the Eurozone, and EU legislation facilitated ease of withdrawal of ATM cash within the Eurozone. According to sepa.ie, the following will be in place when SEPA is completed:
• Citizens and businesses will be able to make cross-border payments throughout the Eurozone more easily and less expensively.
• To facilitate this, harmonised European legislation on payments has been ...
... introduced in all countries.
• Payment systems within Ireland will be changed to conform with European standards. Businesses and banks will require to change systems and procedures. IBAN & BIC will be used where account numbers are currently used.
SEPA is a project managed by the European Payments Council on behalf of European banks. In Ireland, SEPA is managed by IPSO on behalf of Irish banks. In parallel with SEPA, the Irish National Payments Implementation Plan will seek to reduce the usage of paper transactions (Cheques, etc.).
According to www.sepa.ie, SEPA’s objectives can be summarized as follows (and are interconnected with the objectives of a whole plethora of EU initiatives):
Efficiency – SEPA is an element of the Lisbon agenda, agreed in March 2000. The Lisbon agenda is a 10-year development plan intended to deal with economic stagnation and low productivity. The overall plan deals, inter alia, with creating the conditions for efficient operation of the economy as a whole, and creating such conditions for businesses, especially SMEs.
Competitiveness – SEPA is intended to create entirely new levels of competitiveness among banks – especially for business users, but also trickling down to consumers in terms of:
Opening up markets
Creating level playing fields
Elimination of national barriers – National financial borders within the Eurozone area undermine the credibility of the currency, delay financial transactions and create complexity.
Increased market Transparency – through a harmonised set of rules on information requirements.
Standardised rights and obligations – for both providers and users of payment services.
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