The European Union has been actively preparing for what it envisions as the future of money. In the past year, it finalized its landmark comprehensive crypto legislation, the Markets in Crypto-Assets Regulation (MiCA), which is due to take effect in 2024 after closing its second consultation in October.
It has also made progress in its plan to introduce a central bank digital currency (CBDC), which is coming to fruition as the “digital euro.” De Nederlandsche Bank, the central bank of the Netherlands, has described it simply as an “electronic form of public money – the coins and notes in our wallets.”
Many local regulators are embracing the digital euro and touting its potential benefits, though not everyone is on board. In a recent survey out of Spain, 65% of Spaniards said they were not interested in using the digital euro.
Slovakia’s parliament even passed a measure in June that amended its constitution to codify a citizen’s right to pay for goods and services with cash in the face of the impending digital currency.
Cointelegraph spoke with Joana Cotar, a member of the Bundestag — the German federal parliament — and a Bitcoin activist, about her take on the digital euro and why she believes in the benefits of Bitcoin.
Cotar has been outspoken on her stance on the EU’s digital monetary solution, which she told Cointelegraph is that of “a staunch opponent of the digital euro.”
She said a digital euro could allow central banks to set an “upper limit” for payments and ownership, putting citizens “helplessly at [their] mercy.”
“The digital euro would also mean that each and every one of us could be totally monitored. As a convinced libertarian, I emphatically reject this. Anyone who is against surveillance and for freedom does not need a digital euro!”
According to Cotar, the Chinese social credit system should serve as a warning of the possibilities of a cashless and state-controlled payment system. “I don’t want the authorities to be able to spy on our private life and misuse this data,” she said.
However, in April, the program director for the digital euro at the European Central Bank, Evelien Witlox, said that the “ECB has no interest in users’ personal data.” In October, the EU’s data protection regulators issued a joint statement regarding anonymity in digital euro transactions.
Cotar is using her platform, among other things, to raise awareness among lawmakers about the potential dangers she believes to be associated with the digital euro.
While Cotar may not be on board for a digital euro, she is a champion of Bitcoin. She is behind the “Bitcoin in the Bundestag” initiative, which she told Cointelegraph is committed to raising awareness and educating members of the German Bundestag about the potential and risks of Bitcoin.
“Establishing a formal Bundestag committee that recognizes the technological differences between Bitcoin and other crypto assets and mainly deals with the importance of Bitcoin for our society is very important for us.”
She said her initiative serves as an information resource for members of the Bundestag and helps them make more informed decisions about Bitcoin.
When she explained her broader vision for bringing Bitcoin into regulators’ consideration, one major change she’d like to see is the ability to pay taxes and fees in Bitcoin and using Bitcoin mining farms to stabilize the power grid.
“We need to promote the freedom aspects of Bitcoin (permissionless access, individual sovereignty). This includes protecting privacy, ensuring security standards and preventing excessive regulation to maximize the benefits of Bitcoin.”
Cotar would also like to initiate a “preliminary examination” for a legal framework that would recognize Bitcoin as legal tender in Germany. “This includes ensuring the legal security for companies and citizens,” she said.
“We need to combat potential risks such as money laundering, tax evasion and other illegal activities associated with Bitcoin,” she said. “But without stifling innovation and the freedom aspects of Bitcoin.”
The Bitcoin-savvy lawmaker said her ideas for Germany could “easily be transferred” as a framework for other countries. She urges international cooperation to develop a blanket standard for Bitcoin and its cross-border use.
When asked if she feels similarly impassioned for other cryptocurrencies currently available on the market, her response was:
“My initiative is Bitcoin only.”
On Oct. 18, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced it would begin the ”preparation phase” for the digital euro project following a two-year investigation into the potential EU-wide digital currency.