European Parliament report recommends researching, but not launching, digital euro

An analytical paper released by the European Parliament Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs has given the digital euro a mixed review. The title of the paper summed up its position: “Digital Euro: When in doubt, abstain (but be prepared).”

The paper was written at the request of the parliamentary committee by economist Ignazio Angeloni to assess the preparations for the launch of a digital euro. Angeloni looked at ten issues that a “prospective digital euro” (PDE) will face, concentrating on their downsides.

Related: US wholesale CBDC has ‘promise,’ Fed governor says, but retail ‘difficult to imagine’

Angeloni wrote that a digital euro would put the European Central Bank (ECB) in the position of competing with commercial banks for deposits but collaborating with them as commercial banks would provide frontend services to digital euro users under an intermediated model:

“This generates potentially adverse incentives and warrants a well-designed compensation structure for the services provided by banks. The ECB reports give no information on this.”

The introduction of a digital euro may have a disruptive effect that the ECB is unprepared for, Angeloni found. The digital currency would have to be attractive enough to find a customer base, but not so attractive that undermined the banking system. If the digital euro paid interest, it would have to be managed separately from cash interest rates, which could encourage arbitrage operations.

Angeloni concluded with a quote from United States Federal Reserve Board governor Christopher Waller that a central bank digital currency (CBDC) is “a solution in search of a problem.” He recommended:

“The ECB ought to continue its exploration and perhaps also launch the testing phase in October, but should not actually launch a PDE unless new elements emerge in the future […] In favour of such step.”

The ECB will decide in October whether to continue its CBDC research with a “realization phase.”

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