We welcome the Parliament’s final approval of the right to a basic bank account

Last week, during the last plenary meeting of the European Parliament for this term, MEPs backed new EU legislation on the right to a basic bank account with 603 votes cast in favor, 21 against and 51 abstentions.

Jürgen Klute, the EP rapporteur of this dossier, welcomed the outcome: "Today's vote means that anyone legally residing in the EU will have the right to open a basic payment account, and this right cannot be denied on the grounds of nationality or place of residence. A basic bank account is essential for daily life in modern society so this is vital to tackling the marginalisation and difficulties faced by those who at present are not able to have one for whatever reason. Banks should not be entitled to exclude citizens from society by denying them access to regular payment services," he said. You can read more here.

This vote also proves that when the EU institutions are committed to achieving a result even with time constraints, it is possible: in fact the Parliament and the Council concluded the negotiations on this file in less than one year after the Commission put forward its proposal.

We at Social Platform welcome this vote: we have been advocating for a directive on basic bank accounts for a number of years. This was one of the demands contained in the first Manifesto of the Spring Alliance (2009).

Not having access to a bank account impacts directly on how included a person is in society. In fact without a bank account it is virtually impossible to access employment in most member states, or to be paid, as one of the pre-conditions for signing an employment contract for the future employee is having a bank account number. It is furthermore impossible to buy a house, receive social protection benefits and borrow. Bill payments can be more time-consuming and costly without a payment account, and increasingly service charges apply when payments are made directly to financial institutions which increases utility costs. Moreover, without access to a basic payment account, a great deal of important financial services remains inaccessible. People without access to various means of payment are unable to take advantage of the lower prices of goods and services that internet sales can offer.

Finally, remittance payments are an important source of income for countries outside of the EU. Many migrant women and men send money to family members who have remained in their countries of origin and for which access to a bank account is vital in order to avoid reliance on unscrupulous intermediaries and/or other forms of corruption. 

As we stressed in our position paper on financial inclusion, we consider this measure only a starting point to fight against financial exclusion and discrimination. We recommend that the EU institutions engage in adopting a broader approach to promote financial inclusion. It should cover access to credit, savings and insurance, as well as the growing problem of over-indebtedness, which has increased as a consequence of the financial and economic crisis and is also due to unfair credit and lending practices.

Studies and surveys carried out by our members testify that, when people try to have access to other essential financial services, such as insurance products, mortgages and loans, cases of discrimination mainly on the grounds of age, disability and sex (including underlying health conditions and/or life expectancy) are still widespread across Europe. We cannot believe in a social market economy that does not put people's rights at its core.