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Finance and Monetary Affairs in the EU

Latest news on economic and monetary affairs in the European Union.

Cyprus and the euro
Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the euro on 1 January 2008.

Italy and the euro
Italy is a founding member of the European Union and was one of the first-wave EU countries to adopt the euro on 1 January 1999.

France and the euro
France is a founding member of the European Union and was one of the first-wave EU countries to adopt the euro on 1 January 1999.

Spain and the euro
Spain joined the European Union in 1986 and was in the first-wave EU countries to adopt the euro on 1 January 1999.

Ireland and the euro
Ireland joined the European Union in 1973 and was one of the first-wave EU countries to adopt the euro on 1 January 1999.

Estonia and the euro
Estonia joined the European Union in 2004 and is currently preparing to adopt the euro.

Greece and the euro
Greece joined the European Union in 1981, and adopted the euro in 2001 in time to be among the first wave of EU countries to launch euro banknotes and coins on 1 January 2002.

Germany and the euro
Germany is a founding member of the European Union and was one of the first-wave EU countries to adopt the euro on 1 January 1999.

Denmark and the euro
Denmark joined the European Union in 1973. It has negotiated an opt-out from the euro and is thus not obliged to introduce it.

The Czech Republic and the euro
The Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004 and is currently preparing to adopt the euro.

Bulgaria and the euro
Bulgaria joined the European Union on 1 January 2007 and has committed to adopt the euro once it fulfils the necessary conditions.

Belgium and the euro
Belgium is a founding member of the European Union and was one of the first-wave EU countries to adopt the euro on 1 January 1999.

EU conveyancing services market: Commission study
The European Commission has published a study by independent consultants on the EU markets for legal services associated with house and land sales (conveyancing services). The study finds that consumers have greater choice and are on average paying less for conveyancing services under deregulated systems, with no loss in quality. The market for conveyancing services is worth about EUR 17 billion per annum; efficiency savings of even a few per cent following deregulation would therefore save consumers millions of euros each year. The Commission is calling on EU Member States to look at the findings and to review and update national laws which limit competition and the free circulation of services throughout the Single Market instead of serving the interests of consumers.

Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) - guide
SEPA, the Single Euro Payments Area, went live on 28 January 2008 and European banks formally launched the first SEPA payment instrument for credit transfers. This marks the first step in a migration process over the next few years during which customers will move in a market-led process from existing national electronic payment instruments to the new SEPA instruments. The European Commission said in a statement: "this is a logical extension to the introduction of the euro and will produce substantial benefits through a more competitive and efficient payments market".

Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA): cost-benefit study
The European Commission has published a major study into the costs, benefits and opportunities created by SEPA (the Single Euro Payments Area) which was formally launched on 28 January 2008. The study shows that in the most favourable scenario the net benefits to payments markets over the next six years could amount to as much as EUR 123 billion with users gaining most. However, this calls for rapid and full migration from existing national payment products to the new SEPA payment instruments. The study also estimates that if SEPA can be used as a platform for e-invoicing there are further potential gains of EUR 238 billion.

Consumer Credit Directive - guide
Consumers across Europe look set to be able to make better informed choices when they take out consumer credit loans - paying for holidays, weddings or a new car - following a decision in the European Parliament on 16 January 2008. The proposed EU Directive on Consumer Credit Loans aims to break open the EUR 800 billion EU consumer loans market which remains largely fragmented into national markets denying consumers choice and more competitive prices. The new rules will make the market more transparent for consumers and business competitors. The main effect will be to provide standard, comparable information to customers across the EU taking out a credit loan. Under the new rules, consumers will be assured access to key facts and figures in advertisements. For credit offers, the information given to consumers (e.g interest rates, amount, number and frequency of payments, the obligation to take out an insurance or the charges for defaulting) must be set out in a new comparable EU-wide European Credit Information Form. And there will be a new single EU-wide method for calculating the Annual Percentage Rate of Charge (APR) so consumers can see the real cost of credit. The proposed directive also sets common standards on a right of withdrawal so consumers can change their mind. This Consumer Credit Directive is part of a bigger drive to boost the cross border market in retail financial services as set out in the recently published Green Paper on Retail Financial Services.

The euro and the eurozone - guide
Background information on the euro and the euro area, or eurozone.

EC prohibits MasterCard's intra-EEA Multilateral Interchange Fees - guide
The European Commission on 19 December 2007 decided that MasterCard's multilateral interchange fees (MIF) for cross-border payment card transactions with MasterCard and Maestro branded debit and consumer credit cards in the European Economic Area (EEA) violate EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices (Article 81). The Commission concluded that MasterCard's MIF, a charge levied on each payment at a retail outlet when the payment is processed, inflated the cost of card acceptance by retailers without leading to proven efficiencies. MasterCard has six months to comply with the Commission's order to withdraw the fees. If MasterCard fails to comply, the Commission may impose daily penalty payments of 3.5% of its daily global turnover in the preceding business year. MIF are not illegal as such. However, a MIF in an open payment card scheme such as MasterCard's is only compatible with EU competition rules if it contributes to technical and economic progress and benefits consumers. In the EU, over 23 billion payments, exceeding a value of EUR 1,350 billion, are made every year with payment cards.

Contraband and counterfeit cigarettes - guide
The European Commission, together with 26 participating Member States of the European Union, and JT International (JTI) on 14 December 2007 announced a multi-year agreement that includes an efficient system to fight against future cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting. Through the Agreement, JTI will work with the European Commission, its anti-fraud office OLAF, and law enforcement authorities of the Member States to help in the fight against contraband, including the problem of counterfeit cigarettes. The Agreement includes substantial payments by JTI, which total USD 400 million over fifteen years.

EU budget 2008: breakdown
In 2008, for the first time ever, the largest share of the EU budget - 45% of all EU spending – will go on measures to boost economic growth and greater cohesion in the EU-27. The move to spend more on competitiveness reflects Europe's commitment to prosper in a constantly evolving global economy, while ensuring stable support for farming. Agriculture will continue to receive over 40% of EU cash.

Direct taxation : EC Communication on the application of anti-abuse measures - guide
The European Commission adopted on 10 December 2007 a Communication inviting EU Member States to carry out a general review of their anti-abuse rules in the direct tax area, in light of the principles flowing from relevant ECJ case law, – and to explore possible coordinated solutions in this field. In order to prevent tax abuse, Member States have implemented anti-abuse rules with the aim of preventing economic operators from eroding the tax base in their territory by diverting their income to other countries. Member States' existing anti-abuse rules often do not properly take into consideration the freedoms of the Treaty and are therefore increasingly challenged. In the framework of an EU-coordinated approach in direct taxation (IP/06/1827), the Commission is willing to assist Member States in bringing their anti-abuse rules in line with EC law requirements and to explore the scope for constructive and coordinated responses to the challenges faced by Member States.

Modernising VAT rules applied on financial and insurance services - guide
The European Commission adopted on 28 November 2008 a proposal for a European Union Directive aiming at modernising and simplifying the complex VAT rules for financial and insurance services and securing a level playing field in the pan-EU market for these services as far as VAT is concerned. These services are generally exempt from VAT but the exemption dates from 1977 and the legislation has not kept abreast of developments since then. Today, the exemption is not applied uniformly by the EU Member States and thus frequently the European Court of Justice has been asked to fill the legislative gap and clarify the correct interpretation. The proposal will create more certainty and security for Member States and for financial and insurance institutions by setting clear modern definitions of exempt services. It will also allow these institutions to manage the costs of non deductible VAT by allowing them to opt for taxation and by clarifying and extending the tax exemption for cost sharing arrangements.

Services to citizens in the EU in facts and figures
How many EU households have only mobile phones? For how long do they talk per day on their mobile phones? How many inhabitants are served by each post office in the Member States? How many Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) are there per inhabitant in the EU? How do Europeans prefer to pay for their purchases? - Answers to these questions and many more can be found in the publication "Consumers in Europe – facts and figures", jointly published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities and the General Directorate Health & Consumer Protection of the European Commission. This third edition of "Consumers in Europe" focuses on network industries providing services of general interest to the European consumers. These services are utilities such as transport, energy, water, electricity, telecommunications, internet, postal services and banking services, which play a fundamental role in the economic and social lives of citizens.

EU Budget for 2008
Ecofin (Budget) agreement on EU Budget for 2008, including Galileo and European Institute of Technology.

European Private Company - guide
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about EU Company Law and the European Private Company (EPC)