The European Commission opened its doors to public feedback on the digital euro just over two weeks ago, but in that time, over 11,000 comments have been submitted. The feedback has been overwhelmingly negative, with concerns about privacy and state distrust dominating, even as others wonder why they needed a digital euro when cash and credit cards were doing just fine.
As CoinGeek reported, the Commission launched a consultation on the digital euro earlier this month, with the feedback period running from April 5 to June 14. It urged experts from the financial and payment industries to pitch in with their expectations, concerns, and recommendations on the use of a digital euro. It also opened the platform to the general public to pitch in.
As the feedback shows, Europe has a long way to go before the digital euro can receive widespread support from the people. Many of the comments expressed skepticism, fear, concern, and distrust of the central bank digital currency (CBDC), which is intended to complement the physical euro. Curiously, over half the comments are in the German language.
Europe has one of the world’s highest penetration of digital payments, with some countries like Norway only recording 4% of transactions in banknotes and coins. However, many of the comments favored keeping cash as the payment method of choice.
“…it is essential to keep [the] fundamental human right to be offline, which at financial market means to be able to pay cash,” one Czech Republic national commented, describing the digital euro as “Matrixation,” in reference to the renowned film in which humans are in an eternal face-off with machines.
Over two-thirds of payments are cashless in the Czech Republic, watering down the comment even further. But the Matrix comment isn’t an outlier. Many who submitted feedback were worried about losing access to cash, pointing to a deficiency in understanding exactly how the digital euro will work.
According to the European Central Bank (ECB), the digital euro will not replace cash but rather complement it. “The Eurosystem will continue to ensure that all citizens across the euro area have access to cash,” ECB adds.
Not everyone who opposes the digital euro is doing it because they prefer cash. In fact, many have no problem with the CBDC itself. Instead, it’s the authorities that will administer it they have little trust in.
One anonymous comment, which was submitted in German, relayed this distrust, stating: “So what is CBDC for […] even more surveillance, prevention of bank runs, addiction and the consequent enslavement of mankind?”
State surveillance through a CBDC has been a constant concern globally. Privacy activists have claimed that the government will now be able to monitor every single payment a citizen makes, equipping it with unprecedented data on spending habits and, consequently, their lifestyle, political leanings, and more.
China has been a target of such attacks the most. The digital yuan, whose development is at a much more advanced stage than the digital euro, has been said to be an effective tool for the country’s ruling party to have an even bigger stranglehold over its people.
Euro users will be entitled to some level of privacy, with the Irish Finance Minister previously commenting, “A risk-based approach could be followed allowing for more privacy for less risky and smaller transactions and vice versa.”
This has done little to assuage the doubts of many who submitted their feedback. “Nobody should know where I invest money, what products I am buying. The introduction of the digital euro is the complete loss of the liberty and the start of the total control,” one comment read.
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