The Single Euro Payments Area, or SEPA, is an initiative to use uniform payment instruments for payments in euro.
In SEPA, credit transfers in euro and direct debits in euro are carried out according to the same payment schemes, applying uniform main terms and conditions, rights and obligations. Currently, SEPA covers 34 states, including Lithuania.
The key SEPA project requirements are defined in the SEPA Regulation. The SEPA Regulation regulates credit transfers and direct debits in euro, when a payer’s and a payee’s payment service providers operate in the European Economic Area. It should be noted that payment service providers will also be able to provide payment services in line with SEPA requirements in the Principality of Monaco, Switzerland and San Marino; however, in these territories, the SEPA Regulation is not applied. Institutions responsible for ensuring observance of the SEPA Regulation should be appointed in each Member State. Once an infringement is identified, these institutions will be able to impose sanctions on payment service providers. In Lithuania, the Bank of Lithuania has been appointed as the competent authority.
The SEPA Regulation provisions and common SEPA payment schemes began to be applied gradually. Payment service providers and users of 18 euro area countries finished migration to SEPA requirements by 1 August 2014. After Lithuania joins the euro area in early 2015, SEPA requirements in Lithuania will come into effect no later than by 1 January 2016. In the other non-euro area countries, SEPA requirements will have to be implemented by 31 October 2016 at the latest.
The Bank of Lithuania not only performs the responsibilities of the competent authority in charge of compliance with the SEPA Regulation, but, to encourage successful implementation of the SEPA project in Lithuania, initiated the setting up of a SEPA Coordination Committee (hereinafter — Committee) in 2007, and currently chairs it. The Committee includes representatives of domestic commercial banks, foreign bank branches, the Association of Lithuanian Banks, Central Credit Union of Lithuania, association of credit unions, e-money institutions and the Bank of Lithuania involved in its activities on a voluntary basis. The Committee monitors and assesses the country’s preparation for migration to SEPA payment instruments, prepares proposals for the elimination of obstacles to migrate to them and/or facilitate the migration. Furthermore, the Committee maintains relations and shares information with the SEPA project management structures at the EU level.
The experience of euro area countries has shown that a crucial prerequisite for migration to the SEPA project is to increase SEPA awareness. Aiming at increasing SEPA awareness, the Bank of Lithuania, jointly with the SEPA Coordination Committee, holds meetings with payment service users and organisations representing them — SEPA forums. The aim of SEPA forums is to promote mutual cooperation of payment service providers, software developers and payment service users, SEPA awareness and sharing of good practices, discussions and search for the most effective solutions in order to facilitate the preparations of enterprises and of the public sector for SEPA requirements.
In addition to that, the Bank of Lithuania, jointly with the Association of Lithuanian Banks, seeking to inform payment service users in the most timely manner and the most convenient way about changes due in the payments area, have developed Lithuania’s SEPA website. It will post the most up-to-date and relevant information important both for residents and enterprises.
 Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2012 establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro and amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009.