Europay International said the Slovak Republic has become the first country in Eastern Europe and only the second overall to roll out Maestro smart debit cards according to the EMV standard.

The first EMV transactions were completed after a 10-month project at Slovenska Sporitelna. The bank's 300,000 cards are to be converted to the chip technology beginning in the second quarter

EMV, a standard for card-terminal interactions developed by Europay, its affiliate MasterCard, and their competitor Visa, was previously introduced in the United Kingdom. Its widespread adoption would ease cross-border interoperability of payment systems, which Europay has pledged to support, said Zdenek Houser, the Belgium-based association's chip services manager for East Europe.

Europay offers an "off-the-shelf" system that enabled "such a fast rollout" with assistance from the French systems company Bull, said Jozef Filo, the Slovak bank's general manager, information technology. The Europay program "provided a secure and long-term solution while minimizing our investment and risk."

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