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A new voice on a familiar topic – SEPA from the perspective of ECB Executive Board Member Peter Praet



A new voice on a familiar topic – SEPA from the perspective of ECB Executive Board Member Peter Praet 3

Speech by Peter Praet, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB, at the off-site meeting of the European Payments Council
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you very much for inviting me to speak at your off-site meeting today. From 2004 to 2010, with only one exception, Ms Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell presented the ECB’s views and expectations regarding the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) to the EPC Coordination Committee. Today, I have the honour of taking over. I am committed to continuing the fruitful dialogue that has been established between the ECB and the EPC over the years in the same spirit of openness and trust.A new voice on a familiar topic – SEPA from the perspective of ECB Executive Board Member Peter Praet 4
Let me first discuss the SEPA project as it stands now in comparison with the situation in mid-2010. Then, I will make some remarks on cash. Subsequently, I will focus on three issues that are important for the retail payments market in general in coming years:
1.    innovation;
2.    competition; and
3.    globalisation.
In this context, it is essential that we keep up a continuous dialogue with all stakeholders, including that with the EPC, a very prominent actor.
2010-11 review: end-date for migration to SEPA, competitive European cards market, security of retail payments

Where do we stand? In 2010, the SEPA project was largely dominated by the intense debate on the proposal to set an end-date for the migration to SEPA by regulation. A great deal of time and many resources of both public authorities and the financial sector have gone into shaping the proposal by the European Commission. This has not been an easy process, and there has been some controversy between the European Commission and the financial industry with regard to the contents and coverage of the regulation, particularly the technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits and the direct debit interchange. The Eurosystem expects the SEPA credit transfer and the SEPA direct debit, which can comply with the technical requirements, to become the credit transfer and direct debit schemes used for euro payments in the EU. Where direct debit interchange is concerned, the draft regulation now provides legal certainty.
Despite the controversy, we all share the conviction that determining a clear deadline for migration to the SEPA credit transfer (SCT) and the SEPA direct debit (SDD) is necessary to bring SEPA to a successful conclusion. Thus, I would encourage you to focus on what lies ahead, and not to be dissuaded from pursuing your initiatives and projects.
As you know, one of the areas that needs to be driven further forward by the EPC is the standardisation of cards. Last year, Ms Tumpel-Gugerell discussed three elements that are required for a move towards a competitive European payment card market:
•    first, the development of an additional European card scheme;
•    second, the separation of card schemes from processing entities; and
•    third, card standardisation.
Progress in the development of an additional card scheme has been considerably slower than hoped for. The slow progress in this area gives further weight and importance to card standardisation, which should ensure interoperability and the harmonised use of cards across Europe. Here, I would like to emphasise that the EPC should provide guidance for standardisation initiatives in the different domains (card-to-terminal, terminal-to-acquirer, acquirer-to-issuer, and certification and type approval) on which standards are to be used for SEPA. Equally important, the EPC should also provide guidance on how to implement them.
With regard to the SEPA Certification Framework, the ECB has submitted some recommendations to the EPC on how to facilitate agreement between the different stakeholders. Now that the summer break is over, we would expect to receive your feedback on these recommendations in the near future.
The third issue addressed last year was the security of retail payments. Here, the establishment of the SecuRe Pay Forum, which aims to deliver concrete recommendations on card-not-present and online payments by the end of this year, should contribute to the creation of a level playing field with a high level of security in Europe. The ECB welcomes the fact that the EPC regards the prevention of card fraud as one of its top priorities and that it has defined measures to reduce fraud and protect payment data. However, the market should be more ambitious and follow the Eurosystem’s recommendation to issue “chip only” cards and, in addition, to start with implementing intermediate fraud prevention measures such as the regional blocking of card transactions. In this respect, it is encouraging that EUROPOL has called on the United States to close this loophole for fraudulent card transactions. The recent announcement of VISA Inc. to accelerate migration to EMV in the United States and to institute a shift in liability for counterfeit card-present point-of-sale transactions can thus be considered a real breakthrough.
Before I turn to innovation, let me first say a few words about cash, taking into account that banknotes are issued by the Eurosystem itself. In practice today, cash is still by far the most frequently used means of payment for retail (i.e. point-of-sale) transactions in the euro area. Society is neither willing nor ready to do without cash.
The continued availability of cash as an easy-to-use, reliable and cheap means of payment requires a resilient and efficient cash cycle. Indeed, it is likely, both with respect to resilience and with respect to efficiency, that the bar in this respect will be raised in the period ahead.
Against this background, I welcome your efforts in this area. The standardisation and upgrading of the cassettes used for the storage and transportation of banknotes, which you will discuss tomorrow, is a case in point, serving both the efficiency and the resilience of the cash cycle.
I know that my colleagues in the cash area appreciated the constructive cooperation that you have been able to establish over the years, and they look forward to seeing further progress on these issues.

Fostering innovation: 21st century ways to pay
25 years ago, nobody would have expected that the way we work, communicate and access information and entertainment would be changed as profoundly as it has through the invention of the chip, the internet and the mobile phone. However, the diffusion of innovations in retail payments has been strikingly slow. Technological progress, which has revolutionised work, communication and entertainment media, has not had a major effect on means of payment and payment habits. The methods used for payments in Europe are still deeply rooted in the 20th century.
There are several reasons why innovation in retail payments is difficult. Consumer demand is a very significant factor in payments — the response of the general public to any new means of payment can make it or break it. It has often been argued that many consumers dislike change. Recently, the Payments Council in the United Kingdom had to cancel the target for the possible closure of the cheque clearing in 2018 due to complaints from stakeholders. Still, we should not forget that neither consumers nor merchants can generate demand for what is not on offer – the notorious chicken and egg problem. Furthermore, on the supply side, providers are confronted with the first-mover disadvantage: network externalities, the lack of critical mass and switching costs. These factors make it important that innovation is tackled in a coordinated way and that an innovation-friendly legal and regulatory environment is ensured.
It is important that these factors are considered when talking about innovation. Still, in many constituencies, the strong persistence of cash usage may not be driven only by choice, but also – due to the factors discussed above – by the absence of choice. This is particularly relevant for the unbanked or underbanked population. Innovation in retail payments might be a tool to increase financial inclusion – not only in the developing countries.
Absence of choice is also manifest in e-commerce/internet shopping. The ECB has observed that in many constituencies, the payment instruments offered for online payments are not those most suitable for remote payments. To give you a practical example, I would like to mention a web merchant in Germany that offers either prepayment, cash on delivery or payment by Sofortüberweisung (an overlay service). Such slim choice and lack of competition is clearly an obstacle to the growth of e-commerce in Europe, and I can only reiterate the Eurosystem’s call for the banking industry to engage in the delivery of suitable SEPA-wide online-e-payment solutions. Otherwise, banks may run the risk of being crowded out by other providers that have already entered the market. At the same time, merchants – both in the virtual and in the brick-and-mortar sphere – should recognise that it is in their own individual and common interests to have a secure means of payment and to adopt the necessary measures.

Fostering competition: striking the right balance between cooperation and competition
I would now like to discuss the prerequisites for fostering competition that benefits innovation in means of payment – and retail payments in general – through SEPA. The Eurosystem has argued from the outset that the harmonisation of standards and rules for retail payments is necessary to overcome the current fragmentation of payment instruments and infrastructure in Europe. Giving greater choice to European businesses and consumers, and opening up a larger market to payment service providers, will boost competition. The EPC plays a pivotal role in this process, and therefore also has responsibility for bringing the requirements of the other stakeholders in SEPA on board.
It has always been clear that, as a network industry, payments can only be processed smoothly if common standards and rules are available. It is also clear that standards and rules should be open and non-proprietary so as to prevent closed markets. But it is also clear that the scope for cooperation needs to be delineated carefully from that for competition.
The optimum balance between the cooperative and the competitive space is as hard to find as that between efficiency and consumer convenience, on the one hand, and security and reliability, on the other. It is of paramount interest of the public authorities that the right balance is struck between these poles. Generally, it is more efficient to foster competition on the basis of common standards than to foster competition for standards. However, it has to be ensured that these common standards do not end up as being the lowest common denominator. Therefore, public authorities regard it as their responsibility to look carefully into this balance between competition and cooperation, and interfere whenever required. That having been said, I would like to reiterate the Eurosystem’s support for the creation both of rulebooks and frameworks for retail payments in general and of a framework for, and measures to ensure the interoperability of, existing online e payment schemes in particular, provided these are based on transparent and open standards that allow other communities/schemes to join if they wish to do so.

Fostering European direction at the global level
In my final point, I will take a further step back from the level of detail of the discussion of SEPA. In the day-to-day business, we tend to focus, to a large extent, on the difficulties we are facing along the road towards making SEPA reality. When reading the documentation on SEPA, I have often found the phrase “yes … but”: yes, the indicator for migration to the SEPA credit transfer is growing, but not fast enough; yes, the SEPA direct debit is available, but it is hardly used; yes, the proposed regulation will fix a migration end-date, but it is too early; and so on. Of course, we have to deal with problems and obstacles, but for a few minutes at least, let us focus, for a change, on what has been achieved.
SEPA is an unprecedented initiative to harmonise cashless retail payments across countries, with the added difficulty of replacing existing and widely accepted national payment instruments. SEPA is not limited by the borders of either the euro area or the EU. Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Monaco are part of SEPA, enabling cashless euro payments under the same basic rights and conditions for their citizens and businesses as in the EU. And the impact of SEPA clearly goes beyond Europe. International initiatives such as the International Payments Framework (IPF) see the SEPA schemes as a blueprint for developing their own schemes. Even in China, bankers know that SEPA does not stand only for the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration, but for a pan-European initiative that they are watching with great interest. All this shows that we are on the right path, and that we have an international role to play in retail payments.
However, this needs to go both ways. Particularly in the area of standardisation, the coordinated presence of European payment service providers, schemes and processors is required to ensure that changes in global standards that may affect SEPA schemes, frameworks and guidelines are identified in a timely manner. In the 7th SEPA Progress Report, the Eurosystem identified a strong need for the direct and coordinated involvement of the European payments industry in global card standardisation bodies. In this respect, we welcome the EPC’s presence on the advisory boards of EMVCo and PCI, and the negotiation of Memoranda of Understanding with these two entities.
With the publication of the 7th SEPA Progress Report in October 2010, the Eurosystem, in its role as catalyst, provided analysis and guidance on the way forward for SEPA in the forthcoming period. In today’s speech, I have discussed some factors at a broader level: innovation, striking the right balance between the cooperative and the competitive space, and the positioning of European retail payments at a global level. To drive the future development in retail payments, payment service providers and public authorities/regulators will have to be able to respond proactively to these factors.
The three “Es” – the European Payments Council, the Eurosystem and the European Commission – largely favour the integration and modernisation of the retail payments market. While there are sometimes differences in their understanding of how best to achieve these goals, I am confident that we have managed, and will continue to manage, to successfully drive our vision of SEPA forward.
Thank you very much for your attention.

Copyright © for the entire content of this website: European Central Bank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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Oil slips after U.S. crude stocks rise amid deep freeze hit to refiners



Oil slips after U.S. crude stocks rise amid deep freeze hit to refiners 5

By Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Oil prices fell in early trade on Wednesday after industry data showed U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly rose last week as a deep freeze in the southern states curbed demand from refineries that were forced to shut.

Crude stockpiles rose by 1 million barrels in the week to Feb. 19, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported on Tuesday, against estimates for a draw of 5.2 million barrels in a Reuters poll.

API data showed refinery crude runs fell by 2.2 million bpd.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 55 cents or 0.9% at $61.12 a barrel at 0136 GMT, after slipping 3 cents on Tuesday.

Brent crude futures fell 38 cents, or 0.6%, to $64.99 a barrel, erasing Tuesday’s 13 cents gain.

Investors will be awaiting confirmation from the U.S. Energy Information Administration later on Wednesday that crude inventories rose last week, despite the hit to shale oil production amid the unprecedented icy spell in the U.S. south.

“The key question is how quickly does U.S. oil supply recover. It looks like supply will recover faster than refineries, and supply is going to outpace demand in the next few weeks. That will give negative weight to the market,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar said.

The price retreat is being seen as a pause following a rally of more than 26% to 13-month highs in both Brent and WTI since the start of the year.

Prices have jumped due to the U.S. supply disruption and supply discipline by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+, led by an extra 1 million bpd cut by Saudi Arabia.

At the same time stimulus spending to boost growth, investors rotating into commodities, and hopes that the rollout of vaccinations could lead to an easing of pandemic restrictions are all buoying oil prices.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Oil settles mixed amid post-storm uncertainty



Oil settles mixed amid post-storm uncertainty 6

By Laura Sanicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices settled near year-long highs on Tuesday on signs that global coronavirus restrictions were being eased, although concerns about the pace of a U.S. economic recovery and the return of Texas oil production kept gains in check.

U.S. crude settled down 3 cents to $61.67 a barrel, still close to its highest levels since January 2020. Brent crude <LCOc1> settled up 13 cents, or 0.2%, to $65.37 a barrel.

Both contracts rose more than $1 earlier before retreating.

Shale oil producers and refiners in the southern United States are slowly resuming production after 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output and nearly 20% of U.S. refining capacity shut down because of last week’s winter storm.

Traffic at the Houston ship channel was slowly returning to normal. Production, however, was not expected to fully restart soon and some shale producers forecast lower oil output in the first quarter.

Some oil production may never come back, commodities merchant Trafigura said on Tuesday.

After the cold snap, U.S. crude oil stockpiles were also seen falling for a fifth straight week, while the inventories of refined products also declined last week, an extended Reuters poll showed.

“It appears that last week’s severe cold spell and related Texas power outage could be affecting the weekly EIA data into the middle of next month,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

There were also concerns over the U.S. economic recovery, which the chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said remained “uneven and far from complete.”

He said it would be “some time” before the central bank considered changing policies it had adopted to help the country back to full employment.

Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said the recent oil price rise was buoyed by upbeat price forecasts from U.S. brokers.

Goldman Sachs expects Brent prices to reach $70 per barrel in the second quarter from the $60 it predicted previously, and $75 in the third quarter from $65 forecast earlier.

Morgan Stanley, which expects Brent to reach $70 in the third quarter, said new COVID-19 cases were falling while “mobility statistics are bottoming out and are starting to improve”.

Bank of America said Brent prices could temporarily spike to $70 in the second quarter.

(Reporting by Laura Sanicola in New York; Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London and Jessica Jaganathan in Singapore; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Mark Heinrich)

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Exclusive: AstraZeneca to miss second-quarter EU vaccine supply target by half – EU official



Exclusive: AstraZeneca to miss second-quarter EU vaccine supply target by half - EU official 7

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – AstraZeneca expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccines it was contracted to supply the European Union in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The expected shortfall, which has not previously been reported, comes after a big reduction in supplies in the first quarter and could hit the EU’s ability to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of adults by the summer.

The EU official, who is directly involved in talks with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, said the company had told the bloc during internal meetings that it “would deliver less than 90 million doses in the second quarter”.

AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU, which was leaked last week, showed the company had committed to delivering 180 million doses to the 27-nation bloc in the second quarter.

“Because we are working incredibly hard to increase the productivity of our EU supply chain, and doing everything possible to make use of our global supply chain, we are hopeful that we will be able to bring our deliveries closer in line with the advance purchase agreement,” a spokesman for AstraZeneca said, declining to comment on specific figures.

A spokesman for the European Commission, which coordinates talks with vaccine manufacturers, said it could not comment on the discussions as they were confidential.

He said the EU should have more than enough shots to hit its vaccination targets if the expected and agreed deliveries from other suppliers are met, regardless of the situation with AstraZeneca.

The EU official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed that AstraZeneca planned to deliver about 40 million doses in the first quarter, again less than half the 90 million shots it was supposed to supply.

AstraZeneca warned the EU in January that it would fall short of its first-quarter commitments due to production issues. It was also due to deliver 30 million doses in the last quarter of 2020 but did not supply any shots last year as its vaccine had yet to be approved by the EU.

All told, AstraZeneca’s total supply to the EU could be about 130 million doses by the end of June, well below the 300 million it committed to deliver to the bloc by then.

The EU has also faced delays in deliveries of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as Moderna’s shot. So far they are the only vaccines approved for use by the EU’s drug regulator.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine was authorised in late January and some EU member states such as Hungary are also using COVID-19 shots developed in China and Russia.


While drugmakers developed COVID-19 vaccines at breakneck speed, many have struggled with manufacturing delays due to complex production processes, limited facilities and bottlenecks in the supply of vaccine ingredients.

According to a German health ministry document dated Feb. 22, AstraZeneca is forecast to make up all of the shortfalls in deliveries by the end of September.

The document seen by Reuters shows Germany expects to receive 34 million doses in the third quarter, taking its total to 56 million shots, which is in line with its full share of the 300 million doses AstraZeneca is due to supply to the EU.

The German health ministry was not immediately available for a comment.

If AstraZeneca does ramp up its output in the third quarter, that could help the EU meet its vaccination target, though the EU official said the bloc’s negotiators were wary because the company had not clarified where the extra doses would come from.”Closing the gap in supplies in the third quarter might be unrealistic,” the official said, adding that figures on deliveries had been changed by the company many times.

The EU contracts stipulates that AstraZeneca will commit to its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver by a set timetable.

“We are continuously revising our delivery schedule and informing the European Commission on a weekly basis of our plans to bring more vaccines to Europe,” the AstraZeneca spokesman said.

Under the EU contract leaked last week, AstraZeneca committed to producing vaccines for the bloc at two plants in the United Kingdom, one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands.

However, the company is not currently exporting vaccines made in the United Kingdom, in line with its separate contract with the British government, EU officials said.

AstraZeneca also has vaccine plants in other sites around the world and it has told the EU it could provide more doses from its global supply chain, including from India and the United States, an EU official told Reuters last week.

Earlier this month, AstraZeneca said it expected to make more than 200 million doses per month globally by April, double February’s level, as it works to expand global capacity and productivity.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Sabine Siebold; Editing by David Clarke)


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