Why the Digital Euro will be strategic and it is urgent to realize it quickly

April 20, 2021

Corrado Passera's editorial

CEO illimity

The creation of a Digital Euro is, absolutely, among our highest priorities. It is an important issue, but one about which there is so little clarity, it is beginning to make us lose sense of what is really at stake. This is a dangerous game, which is not so much about payment systems, as many would have us believe, as it is about the very basis of our sovereignty, and therefore, of our democracies.

Never before has Europe seemed so close, mature and capable in the eyes of its citizens as the Europe that, last Spring, reacted to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Never could a Union have been imagined that would be capable of orchestrating a united roll out on the scale of Next Generation Europe and other “federal” programmes to respond to the current crisis.

And yet, despite the many differences and inevitable bumps in the road, an awareness of Europe being a geopolitical player capable of playing a major role, even on the global stage, has prevailed. It is an entity that is still lacking important elements before it can become a global power, but among these, undoubtedly, a Digital Euro is a fundamental prerequisite.

Currency – like laws, the exercise of justice and defence – is one of the fundamental components of the identity and sovereignty of every nation. No country, no global power that has wanted to think of itself as indipendent, has ever dreamed deemed? of relying on the currency of other nations and yet claimed to maintain independent monetary, economic and fiscal policies which are closely related to social and cultural choices. Also, for this reason, Europe must speed up its Digital Euro programmes, for if it lacks a competitive alternative to the Digital Dollar or the Digital Renminbi, it will not be able to survive the complexity of our times.

We live in an age that geopolitical experts have defined as G-Zero, rather than G20! Several supranational institutions have failed, and the two main world leaders, America and China – which, incidentally, have never been enamoured of the idea of a third global entity like the EU, with its solid and independent Euro – sure in the might of their technological and economic power, risk imposing an invincible diarchy on the world. Now, these global powers, each pursuing different paths and projects, are facing each other in an increasingly hostile manner, but this is still confined to the economic and cultural spheres. Moving to even more "violent" and dangerous confrontations, to be avoided in any way, cannot by any means be excluded. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how the coexistence that the world has known in the last few decades will continue to be seen in those that lie ahead.

Given that Covid-19 has accelerated all the trends that were already underway – above all, pervasive digitisation – it is clear that no European country has what it takes to position itself, on its own, as a global power. The only hope for Europeans to maintain their sovereignty remains that of making the European Union a truly global power, equipping it with all the necessary tools to defend its independence and autonomy – strengthening its economy, improving its governance, making collaboration more effective in the face of common health crises, developing a common defence policy and protecting the Union’s founding values, and obviously trying to avoid other dramatic errors, such as Brexit. But we urgently need the creation of a Digital Euro. After all, history teaches us what happens to the clay pots that move between the iron ones.

If our Euro does not very soon become an efficient and competitive Digital Euro, it will be crushed. On the one hand, by the digital currencies of the other global powers, and on the other, by the proliferation of private currencies that operate without regulation by confusing the payment instrument aspect and the investment asset aspect whether in good or bad faith. This concern about cryptocurrencies and their related infrastructures is not even about their speculative character: if properly informed, people want to snatch the "new tulips" from their hands, that is their business. The real concern here is that these private currencies, with extremely strong financial and lobbying powers behind them, will soon become "too big to stop".

From this point of view, Europe’s interests are aligned with the other global powers. First of all, it must stop confusing currency and payment systems – where healthy competition between the public and private sectors is welcome – and where the adoption of Blockchain can help accelerate innovation. It must not be dazzled by the supposed efficiencies of the various cryptocurrencies and the self-styled “stable coins”. Above all, Europe must not trade accelerated and unregulated innovation with the inalienable principles of its deep-rooted culture, yielding to the lure of those who propose delegating necessary innovations in this field to others. Otherwise, it risks losing control not only of its own currency, but of its sovereignty, and as a consequence, perhaps even of its own democracy.

The adoption of the Digital Euro has simply got to speed up. Because of the nature of the world, we live in, speed will, once again, be the critical factor that will make all the difference. If we think that a European digital currency will only be a reality in five years, then let's face it right now that we have already lost the game. Today, the Chinese are already well ahead, and will soon be offering their digital currency to half the world. The Americans are fast making ground with the speed their pragmatic approach and economy guarantees. As for the various private currencies, just pick up a newspaper these days. Europe needs a rapid change of pace and ambition. This will be essential to overcome the divisions and uncertainties that still paralyse, and to look more serenely towards a brighter future.

The editorial by Corrado Passera published on Il Sole 24 Ore on the 20th of April 2021