EU Needs Own Digital ‘EuroCoin’ to Compete With Libra, Says France

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. 

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that Europe should consider its own “public digital currency” that could challenge Facebook’s Libra.

The minister’s remarks – the latest in a series of vocal misgivings about the social media giant’s cryptocurrency plans – were reported by Reuters on Sept. 13.

“EuroCoin”?

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.

Europe’s New Regulations Force Bitcoin Service Bottle Pay to Shut Down

The Bottle Pay service, which allowed users to send Bitcoin via social media accounts, announced on Dec. 13 that it would be shutting down due to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations.

Funds will remain available for withdrawal until 13:00 GMT on Dec. 31, 2019.

New user data collection would negatively impact user experience

Bottle Pay, developed by United Kingdom-based company Block Matrix, enabled Bitcoin payments to any social media contact regardless of whether they had an account or not.

Just two months ago, the company raised $2 million in funding, with the aim of increasing the user-base tenfold over the next year.

However, as a UK-registered custodial Bitcoin wallet provider, the company must comply with the European Union’s 5AMLD EU regulation coming into effect from Jan. 10, 2020.

Block Matrix believes that the additional user information the new regulations require would “alter the current user experience so radically, and so negatively, that we are not willing to force this onto our community.”

Next steps

New signups, deposits and social media bots have already gone offline. Funds already sent will not be claimed and returned to the sender within 7 days. The withdrawal function will be taken offline and all wallets closed at 13:00 GMT on Dec. 31, 2019. Any funds remaining in wallets donated to The Human Rights Foundation.

A similar service for micro-payment tipping on Reddit, also closed down recently, although for different reasons. TipJar, designed for sending Ether (ETH) payments to other Redditors, shut down in October, citing lack of user interest.

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