French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that Europe should consider its own “public digital currency” that could challenge Facebook’s Libra.
At a meeting of EU finance ministers in Helsinki, Le Maire told reporters that he would be discussing the potential for a European public digital currency with his counterparts on the continent next month.
He also reiterated his concerns that the proposed Libra stablecoin could pose risks for consumers, financial stability and even “the sovereignty of European states.”
Le Maire urged the European bloc to push ahead with its work to cut the cost of cross-border payments.
As Reuters notes, real-time payments in the eurozone have been available since 2017, but the scheme has only drawn participation from roughly half of the bloc’s banks. Moreover, the project is currently largely focused on domestic payments.
Europe in limbo
Aside from these proposals, Le Maire said that the bloc needed to rethink its approach toward regulating cryptocurrencies at an EU level.
Repeating his calls to refuse to authorize Libra’s launch in the European Union, Le Maire argued that the current state of limbo — in which regulators continue to debate whether to regulate cryptocurrencies as securities, payment services or currencies — must be resolved through the creation of a robust and common framework.
Given this legal uncertainty, a spokeswoman for the European Commission told Reuters that “with the publicly available information on Libra, it is currently not possible to say which exact EU rules would apply.”
France vows to block Libra development
As reported just yesterday, Le Maire has forcefully said that lingering concerns about Facebook’s project mean that “in these conditions, we cannot authorize the development of Libra on European soil.”
He has previously said that he would ask for guarantees from Facebook that Libra would not be exploited for illicit activities.
While many regulatory and legal issues are still resolved, the EU’s Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive — which came into force in July 2018 — has revised the legal framework that EU financial watchdogs can use to mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorism financing in the cryptocurrency sector.