‘Digital Payment Options Are Already Available:’ The EU Commission Has Received 11,000 Public Comments On The CBDC Project

More than 11,000 people and firms  provided feedback on the European Commission’s “Digital Euro for the European Union” endeavor in less than two weeks since they opened it for public consultation. The section for feedback will be open until June 14th.

In addition to the website’s open-ended comments section, there is a targeted consultation questionnaire aimed at gathering information from industry representatives, authorities, and experts on topics such as privacy and data protection, anti-money laundering (AML), and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) rules, the impact on financial stability, and users’ needs and expectations.

The consultation period runs ahead of the parliamentary debate on the digital Euro, which will begin in 2023. According to crypto advocate Patrick Hansen, most respondents in last year’s round of consultations on the digital euro spoke out in support of payments being a private matter. Despite this, Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni of the European Commission remarked that “a completely anonymous digital euro is not desirable.”

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France’s and Switzerland’s central banks have announced a successful trial of the digital Euro and Swiss Franc. A review of a sample of the information in the public feedback area revealed some dissatisfaction with the project. As an example, an anonymous German comment reads:

“NO! There are already digital payment methods! So, what is CBDC for? […] greater surveillance, the prevention of bank runs, addiction, and, as a result, mankind’s enslavement? This does not preclude money laundering; several tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands, Macau, and Dubai, already do it on a significant scale for the top 10,000.”

Michael Hagmüller, a German-language critic, likewise underlines the dangers of government overreach that could result from the introduction of a single digital currency:

“I am opposed to the EU adopting a digital euro. My concern is that essential freedoms could be jeopardized here, giving authoritarian governments complete power. The Maastricht criteria demonstrate that prior governments have broken the norms, and a digital euro would allow the state to do anything it wants with its inhabitants while suppressing any dissent.”

The German language, in particular, dominates the public comments area, and unfavorable opinion toward the digital euro appears to be widespread. The first opinion in a foreign language, Dutch, was found after scrolling through 21 pages. That one, too, aimed the initiative, albeit more subtly. Marcel Diepstra believes that the EU should focus on effective crypto laws rather than its CBDC:

“We’ve shown over the last 13 years that cryptographically secured digital currencies can be secure and trustworthy while remaining entirely decentralized.” The currency can no longer be changed without the permission of the majority of all stakeholders if it is appropriately set up.”

In addition, citizens of smaller EU member states have expressed concern about increased power consolidation in the hands of the EU’s largest economies. For example, Milan Golier of Slovakia advocated for the preservation of the Union’s members’ sovereignty:

“Neither my family nor I are in agreement. I believe the EU is going too far; the economic help group between sovereign governments is morphing into a dictatorial system dominated by two major players, which we did not want.”

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Others voiced displeasure with the overall process of money virtualization, which is expected to be accelerated significantly if a pan-European digital currency is formed. Belgian Marie Rommelaere wrote:

“This digital euro, in my opinion, is an exception that underlines our bad debt-money situation.” Neither the euro nor any digital currency is acceptable. Let us look for a currency backed by solid assets, such as gold.”

However, the euphoria about the input level should be tempered because most comments are anonymous short remarks that are usually critical of the project. These are not necessarily representative of the views of the majority of EU citizens.