The European Central Bank (ECB) has said it is willing to develop its own digital currency if cross-border payments in euros do not become faster and cheaper.
A recently published internal document states that, given the ECB’s mandate to ensure the smooth operation of payment systems, the ECB itself believes that the time has come to provide a new impetus to European retail payments, based for example on SEPA.
The document also states that this momentum should be industry-driven, with the support of the public sector, and that global stablecoins could be the technological innovations capable of transforming the retail payments landscape.
However, while fully supporting market-based initiatives, if private sector efforts fail to develop an innovative and efficient Paneuropean payment system, the ECB is ready to issue a central bank digital currency (CBDC), and confirms that it is continuing to assess its costs and benefits.
Added to this is the announcement by the Governor of the French central bank, Francois Villeroy de Galhau, that the Bank of France has already started a project on a digital currency.
The French experiment will already start in 2020 with a call for projects in this area before the end of the first quarter. The aim is to develop a central bank digital currency based on blockchain, but dedicated to very large wholesale transactions.
Therefore, this project would not be an alternative to that of the ECB, but complementary, since the former would be specifically designed and implemented for the retail market, while the latter would be dedicated in particular to innovative procedures for the exchange and liquidation of tokenized financial assets.
This was confirmed by Villeroy de Galhau himself, who said he was in favour of examining the possibility of the ECB issuing an e-euro.
On the contrary, the Governor of the Bank of France explicitly said that in the long term there could be two different uses of CBDCs, one for payments between financial sector players and another for the general public.