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"There is no 'Sepa governance issue'" - EPC hits out at Brussel lobbyists

03 November 2011  |  7145 views  |  0 EU building, Brussels

The European Payments Council, currently undergoing an anti-trust review by the European Commission over allegations that it is abusing its standards-setting role to block new entrants to the payments market, has hit out at the influence wielded by lobbyists in Brussels, who it claims are poisoning the debate over the shift to a single euro payments area (Sepa).

The EC initiated a probe into the EPC's standards-setting role in September, following complaints from unidentified lobby groups that the bank-backed body was acting to restrict competition from non-bank entrants to the market.

Responding, EPC chair Gerard Hartsink points out that Sepa is an EU integration initiative shaped in accordance with EU law and policies and that "it is not driven exclusively by the banking industry".

Citing data which suggests that there are up to 30,000 lobbyists active in Brussels, Hartsink says: "Anyone who feels that the EU decision-making process is at fault is certainly free to challenge the EU institutions on the matter, however, they should refrain from fabricating a 'Sepa governance issue'."

The view has been echoed by EPC board member Javier Santamaría of Banco Santander, who accuses lobbyists of deliberately muddying the waters.

"There is no 'Sepa governance issue'," he says. "On the contrary, the debate regarding this particular EU integration initiative has been extensive and open to all interest groups at every juncture of the process. Reinforcing the notion of flawed 'Sepa governance' against all evidence is detrimental to promoting the Sepa programme which first and foremost benefits bank customers. It is therefore hoped that the principal moderators of the political Sepa debate, ie the European Commission and the ECB, will take this phantom discussion off the agenda.

"Dedicating a substantial part of the two annual meetings of the Sepa Council to non-existent 'Sepa governance' issues hardly helps the market to move forward."
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