Since the introduction of the euro in 1999 and euro banknotes and coins in 2002, the majority of citizens of the European Union (EU) have a single currency at their disposal. Yet the markets for retail payments have traditionally retained strong national characteristics. The reasons for these differing structures are mainly historical, as each payment system in individual countries has developed independently over the past few decades. Up to now, Europe has also maintained considerable differences in legal frameworks, payment/collection instruments and schemes, infrastructures and standards as well as efficiency and product diversity.
In an attempt to remove local barriers and increase cross-border trade, and as requested by the European authorities, the European Banking industry announced in 2002 its intention to create a Single Euro Payments Area. After the introduction of the SEPA Credit Transfer (2008) and the SEPA Direct Debit (2009), the euro payments/collections landscape will undergo a radical transformation during its full migration to to these new instruments until 2014.