Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ECB calls for greater financial integration in eurozone (and forgets cash)

The ECB has published its first report on financial integration in Europe. It also has a chapter about SEPA. Which contains the usual mantra's on SEPA and again focuses on the situation for all kinds of payment products except the most important one: cash.

It's becoming a habit for the ECB and the ESCB to keep on stimulating the private sector in making the Single Euro Payments Area happen. And to throw in academic observations as a part of being active in the EU policy debate on the fragmented retail payments market. Now, why is it that once again they leave out their own role in the cash domain?

At present, banks can not send their bank note transporter to another cetral bank than their own. So while it would make more sense for a bank in the South of the Netherlands to send its value transporters to Brussels, the ECB/ESCB requirement is that they send it to Amsterdam. And even if the car would be allowed to deposit money in Brussels, the technical requirements for doing so would be different than those in Amsterdam.

So if the ECB/ESCB would really be keen on making SEPA happen, why don't thy start doing so for their own product: cash. While they are apparently completely unable to harmonize their own internal cash deposit standards and cash transport rules, they keep on insisting that banks do achieve such a thing for their products. Making it quite likely that in 2010 there will be harmonized payments in Europe, but still no progress in the cash domain.

It does look a bit as if the European central banks wish to maintain their monopoly and income on cash and thus effectively only pay lipservice to the goal of more efficent payment services... doesn't it ?