Michel Barnier announced, on 22 June, that the legislative initiative in favour of access to basic financial services was being dropped for now. The commissioner with responsibility for the internal market and services was taking part in a conference in Brussels on financial services, sponsored by consumer associations. In the light of negative (non-public) impact assessments, the College of Commissioners decided to make do with a simple recommendation to the member states in July.
It will focus on access to a basic account (not to credit), its costs and the availability of a payment card, which will not allow overdrafts. The executive promises to review its position if the member states fail to implement the recommendations within one year. This was confirmed the same day by a member of his staff, Philippe Pelle, at the EP Public Services Intergroup.
The retreat on this key initiative of the Commission's work programme - identified in the Single Market Act as a measure to encourage social inclusion - is disappointing to the majority of stakeholders, apart from the banking lobby, which rejected it.
Sebastien de Brouwer of the European Banking Federation (EBF) made no secret of that position before the intergroup, arguing for a less binding means or at the very least "more time for banks to prepare" for the measure. The EBF recommends "a minimal role for the European Commission, a simple recommendation". Its view was heard.
For consumer associations and those active in the social sphere...