The European Central Bank (ECB) has
called for an overhaul of governance and management of the European
Payments Council (EPC) in its sixth progress report on the
development of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).

The ECB has welcomed the “mostly positive
developments” in the SEPA initiative since the previous progress
report was published in mid-2007, but notes that “motivation for
the project has been fading away among market participants.”

In relation to SEPA for Cards, the ECB is
urging the payment industry to set itself more ambitious goals in
the field of card payments, and has re-emphasised its wish to see
the emergence of a new European card scheme to rival Visa and
MasterCard.

At the moment, there are three initiatives to
create such a scheme – the Euro Alliance of Payment Schemes, Monnet
and PayFair. However, the ECB says that, as of yet, it favours no
particular scheme.

Additionally, the ECB has called upon the EPC
to update and revise the SEPA Cards Framework and to make better
progress in coming up with a cards standardisation framework,
saying that the framework as it now stands “is a long way from
being a set of standards that is ready to be implemented by the
market.”

The ECB said that a new deadline of the end of
2009 should be set.

The EPC itself has also come in for criticism,
with the ECB urging changes in the way the EPC is organised.

“Although the EPC has made considerable
progress in balancing the interests of different stakeholders in
the SEPA schemes, there is still considerable room for improvement
as regards involving the full range of stakeholders,” the ECB
stated in the report, suggesting that one short-term remedy would
be “to strengthen the EPC Secretariat so that it can adequately
support the EPC in its many tasks.”

“In the medium to longer-term, more
substantial changes are needed to improve the EPC’s effectiveness,
transparency and accountability,” the report added.