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The 'Berlin Group' is a pan-European payments interoperability standards and harmonisation initiative with the primary objective of defining open and common scheme- and processor-independent standards in the interbanking domain between Creditor Bank (Acquirer) and Debtor Bank (Issuer), complementing the work carried out by e.g. the European Payments Council. As such, the Berlin Group has been established as a pure technical standardisation body, focusing on detailed technical and organisational requirements to achieve this primary objective.
The Berlin Group first met in Berlin, hence its name, in October 2004 and currently has participation of 26 major players in the payments industry from 10 different euro-zone countries and from the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Serbia and Switzerland, together representing more than 25 billion card-originated transactions annually within the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The participants are banks (ASPSPs), banking associations, payment associations, national and international payment schemes, and interbank processors working in SEPA.
The early initiators of the Berlin Group initiative already shared the original ambition and vision of the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission (EC) and the European Payments Council (EPC) on SEPA payments. In their view, this vision would be best reached by capitalising on and preserving the high levels of efficiency, brand awareness, security, convenience and ease of use already achieved in already existing national schemes. In general, the majority of payment transactions already take place at a national level, where national efficiencies in payment schemes and infrastructures are proven and can be leveraged to migrate towards a truly 'domestic' acceptance system within SEPA. Throughout their work, the Berlin Group acknowledges the broad diversity of already existing and competing payment schemes and infrastructures, grown from different historical backgrounds, with different business models and stakeholders, and often diverging governance arrangements and functionality for payments throughout Europe already in place.
The principle goal is to meet the aims of the ECB, the EC, the EPC and (more recently) the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB) with regard to a Single Payment Area, and in particular to help foster the development of an integrated, innovative and competitive market for retail payments in euro in the European Union. In its work, the Berlin Group aims to enable a true unbundling of payment schemes and processing activities, as required for providing efficient SEPA payment services to the market. Once established in the market, scheme-independent standards will also allow an easy entry of new payment schemes into the European market, thus contributing to competition in the field of payment systems.
The Berlin Group is not engaged in the implementation of standards within or between schemes. Participation to the Berlin Group does not imply either endorsement of any of the solutions identified, or a commitment to implement them. Decisions on the implementation of the standards delivered by the Berlin Group are left to individual market participants.
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