European Central Bank must ensure that a digital euro benefits all citizens, the EESC says

In this own-initiative opinion approved during its October plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) supports the European Central Bank (ECB) in its assessment of the risks and benefits of introducing a digital euro. The EESC believes the adoption of a digital euro will benefit everyone in the euro area by making payment transactions quicker and more efficient, but financial and digital inclusiveness will be crucial for its potential roll-out. The EESC will continue to follow the work of the ECB as it considers the design of a possible digital euro.

Opinion rapporteur Juraj Sipko said that all the positive aspects and opportunities of the digital euro must be considered along with all of the potential risks, especially in relation to the stability of the financial sector: As financial stability is one of the key issues when moving towards the introduction of a digital euro, we call on the ECB to take all necessary steps in the area of supervision to counter unlawful transactions, particularly for the purposes of money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as to combat cyber-attacks.

The ECB believes that a digital euro would complement cash by providing people with a new choice when they pay for goods and services while making it easier to do so, contributing to accessibility and inclusion.

Involve civil society to ensure inclusiveness

The EESC also calls on the ECB and euro area countries to involve civil society organisations and representatives in the next stages of preparation, negotiations and discussions on the introduction of a digital euro.

Their input will help ensure that all substantive and systemic measures are taken with a view to selecting the most appropriate model for financial and digital inclusiveness, financial stability and privacy.

This is a complex and particularly demanding project, which will affect every resident of the Member States of the European Union, said Mr Sipko.

The digital euro should also contribute to a fairer, more diverse and more resilient European retail payments market, while ensuring a high degree of privacy and security. The EESC noted that the Eurosystem is committed to enabling high privacy standards. However, higher levels of privacy than provided for by current payments solutions would need to be integrated into the euro area’s rules.

The introduction of a digital euro by the ECB should also preserve the role of public money as the anchor of the payments system and contribute to the EU’s strategic autonomy and economic efficiency.

It must be ensured that both online and offline transactions are possible using a digital euro. Furthermore, systems will need to be compatible with each other for cross-border payment transactions.

The ECB is currently exploring and reviewing various design options for a digital euro and will take a final decision on whether to introduce a digital euro later on. At the same time, many central banks around the world are considering and developing their own digital currencies.

Full opinion