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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Montenegro’s SEPA membership: Boosting efficiency and economic integration

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Montenegro’s integration into the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) promises faster, more efficient transactions at significantly reduced costs compared to previous transfers routed through correspondent banks between Montenegrin and EU banks, stated Andrija Jovović, the Director of the Payment System Sector at the Central Bank of Montenegro (CBCG), to Pobjeda.

According to a World Bank analysis, bank transaction fees within the Western Balkans are five times higher for amounts up to five thousand euros and 17 times higher for amounts exceeding 20,000 euros compared to SEPA member countries.

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Evaluation

Jovović mentioned that an ongoing evaluation of regulatory compliance will determine the pace of Montenegro’s SEPA accession. He emphasized CBCG’s efforts to expedite this process. The decision to extend SEPA’s geographical coverage to Montenegro lies with the European Payments Council (EPC), contingent upon meeting their criteria.

SEPA encompasses 27 EU member states, three non-member states within the European Economic Area, and six states with territories covered by SEPA’s expanded scope (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the Vatican).

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Jovović highlighted projections from the World Bank’s analysis, suggesting that linking Montenegrin banks to SEPA payment schemes would substantially lower costs, expedite transfers, and mitigate the shadow economy by encouraging digital payments.

He anticipates a potential ten percent increase in digital payments, which could lead to a two percent reduction in the shadow economy. This shift towards faster, more efficient euro-denominated payments to and from other SEPA countries could significantly enhance inclusion in electronic payments, aligning Montenegro closer with EU standards.

Application process

Jovović elaborated on the application process, emphasizing that their submission to the European Commission aligns with SEPA’s requirements, covering various aspects like payment services, banking, anti-money laundering, data protection, and competition regulations. They await feedback and potential suggestions for further harmonization.

Once the EC approves the application, individual banks can apply to join SEPA payment schemes. CBCG will support this process and provide necessary assistance to banks. Additionally, technical support from the World Bank will facilitate individual bank access to SEPA.

Jovović clarified that SEPA integration does not directly affect services like PayPal in Montenegro. While PayPal’s decision to offer specific services, including receiving international payments, is a commercial one, Montenegro’s legislative environment supports the operation of electronic transaction platforms.

Cryptocurrency

Regarding cryptocurrency, Jovović emphasized that SEPA participation does not impose restrictions on transactions involving entities engaged in cryptocurrency trading or issuance. However, Montenegro lacks specific regulations governing cryptocurrency trading and supervision, urging caution due to the associated risks until appropriate legislation is enacted.

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