Thirty European banks, including Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas SA, are pushing ahead with plans to create a debit card system in Europe that will challenge Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc.

The lenders, representing more than 10 countries, agreed at a meeting held in Madrid on Wednesday to extend the project across Europe, according to Deutsche Bank.

The banks will decide by the end of this year whether they will participate in the payment system, called Monnet, after further studies.

The European Central Bank and the region's lenders are seeking to create a third Pan-European debit system as an alternative to MasterCard's Maestro and Visa Europe's V Pay.

There were 730 million payment cards in Europe in 2008, representing 30 billion transactions, ECB data showed.

Representatives of the central bank and the European Commission who attended the meeting in Madrid "expressed their support" for the project, which would also help end the fragmentation of the European market, Deutsche Bank said.

The Monnet project was started in 2008 by major French and German banks.

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