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Happy birthday, euro.

In a few hours time the euro will be ten years old and, despite the many forecasts of its demise along the way, the currency is beginning to fulfil its promise. Not only has it contributed to economic development and low inflation in the Eurozone, and been beneficial to trade, but it has also established global credibility, especially in the throes of a global financial crisis.

But the history of the European Union has often been punctuated by periods when the march towards political and economic integration appeared to have ground to a halt. In the eyes of many, we’re not far away from another such stalled process in respect of the latest initiative, SEPA.

So we need to ensure that the SEPA opportunity is not lost as we grapple with the financial crisis. And let’s face it, SEPA does represent an opportunity if it’s done properly, and embraced wholeheartedly by all stakeholders.

Too often, SEPA has been marked by national, political or industry posturing, and the latest outburst from the French banking community is a case in point. SEPA should not be and cannot be only a bank-owned project. It is, rather, a fundamental part of the much larger project which is the euro. And the euro project is, from January 2009, critical for 16 country members of the Eurozone, as Slovakia becomes the latest to sign up.

Let’s try to mark the tenth birthday of the euro with a renewed commitment to SEPA, a commitment that needs to be shared equally by the banks, the corporates, the public administrations, and all stakeholders. A single currency with common notes and coins exists; surely we can manage a single electronic payments area as well, can’t we?


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