European Payments Initiative abandons its project for a European card payment system

Whereas some 30 players were involved in the European payments project, now only 13 are participating, forcing the interim company EPI (European Payments Initiative) to adapt its scope and objectives to this new dimension. While the European card system has been abandoned, the instant payment and digital wallet projects are being maintained.

Abandonment of several major players

The EPI has been forced to abandon one of its major objectives, which was to create a new card scheme to replace all national networks(schemes) in Europe and reduce the dependence of European banks on Visa or Mastercard, which handle the majority of cross-border payments in Europe.

After the Spanish banks, which had already expressed reservations about 2021 and defended their own instant payment system, Bizum, launched in 2016, the coup de grâce was recently delivered by German giant DZ Bank. The central body of the federation of German cooperative banks (BVR) is depriving the project of the 30 million customers it holds across the Rhine.

This latest retraction delays the implementation phase of the EPI project and has consequences for the investment initially planned. With an average investment of 1.3 billion euros shared between all shareholders, this will have to be revised downwards.

The 13 European banks and payment companies that have decided to continue the adventure, including Crédit Mutuel, BNP Paribas, BPCE, Société Générale, La Banque Postale, Crédit Agricole, Deutsche Bank, Spanish bank Santander and Dutch bank ING, have given themselves 2 months to complete the project.

" With these establishments, we have a good critical mass of customers to move forward. We'll be presenting the new concept in a few weeks' time," EPI CEO Martina Weimert tells Les Echos newspaper.


Ambitions scaled back

Following the recent resignations of German bank DZ Bank and Spain's Caixa, the European Payments Initiative project has to be scaled down, losing its card component in particular, as the banking consortium's CEO told AFP on March 24.

The project now focuses on instant payment and digital wallets. These two areas of development are primarily aimed at meeting the needs of merchants and integrating " the challenges of the upcoming digital euro ", explains Martina Weimert.


As a reminder, on July 14, 2021, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced the launch of experimental work on the use of the euro on digital media, with a view to deployment from 2024. This form of currency could be used for retail payments, i.e. day-to-day spending by individuals and businesses. The participants have given themselves until the end of April to specify the contours of the pan-European payment system project, despite the absence of several major players.