The European Union (EU) has been known to waste a lot of money on wrong or even hopeless causes, and opponents of centralized digital money (CBDCs) must be hoping that the digital euro, which has just had €1.3 billion earmarked towards its development, will be one of those.
In fact, in announcing the move EU’s European Central Bank (ECB) made sure to add the disclaimer that it is “not making a commitment to launch any of the development work listed.”
But for the moment, ECB is pushing forward with its plans, and much earlier than observers expected – so much so that the announcement is viewed by some as a surprise. A total of five private sector partners will now receive huge contracts; in the past, Amazon was controversially involved in the e-commerce payments prototype.
How a company that flaunted EU’s own data protection rules and was fined $887 million as recently as in 2021 found its way to becoming an EU “partner” on projects of this importance upset some members of the European Parliament.
And they won’t be pleased to know that although not guaranteed to continue, Amazon might easily be selected this time as well.
According to the ECB statement, the recipients of the money will be tasked not only with prototyping the CBDC, but also with developing a relevant app, offline payment schemes, and, “risk and fraud management.”
This last “initiative” will receive €237 million, while the majority of the funds will go toward creating offline payments – €662 million.
Regardless of how much criticism CBDCs are receiving, particularly in relation to being a power grab, supporters appear convinced that the digital euro would improve the bloc’s financial infrastructure.
And it looks like the EU would like to keep the money “in the Big Money family”: Etonec COO and Digital Euro Association chairman Jonas Gross thinks those most likely to get the contracts are “established CBDC tech providers with offline capabilities,” Big Tech, global financial consultancies, and, “smaller” (but also, “larger”) software firms.
Privacy violations concerns, and general usefulness of CBDC in terms of becoming viable competition to other kinds of digital payments remain recurring arguments offered by opponents.
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