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A digital euro

The euro belongs to Europeans and we are its guardian. We should be prepared to issue a digital euro, should the need arise.

Christine Lagarde, President of the ECB

Digitalisation has spread to every corner of our lives and transformed how we pay.

In this new era, a digital euro would guarantee that citizens in the euro area can maintain costless access to a simple, universally accepted, safe and trusted means of payment.

The digital euro would still be a euro: like banknotes but digital. It would be an electronic form of money issued by the Eurosystem (the ECB and national central banks) and accessible to all citizens and firms.

A digital euro would not replace cash, but rather complement it. The Eurosystem will continue to ensure that you have access to euro cash across the euro area.

A digital euro would give you an additional choice about how to pay and make it easier to do so, contributing to financial inclusion alongside cash.

Why a digital euro?

A digital euro would be a fast, easy and secure instrument for your daily payments. It could support the digitalisation of the European economy and actively encourage innovation in retail payments. The ECB and the national central banks of the euro area are exploring the benefits and risks so that money continues to serve Europeans well.

Report on a digital euro

What are other benefits of a digital euro?

We need to make sure that our currency is fit for the future. Inaction is not an option.

Fabio Panetta, ECB Executive Board Member

A digital euro would combine the efficiency of a digital payment instrument with the safety of central bank money.

It would help to deal with situations in which people no longer prefer cash, and it would avoid dependence on digital means of payment issued and controlled from outside the euro area, which might undermine financial stability and monetary sovereignty.

The protection of privacy would be a key priority, so that the digital euro can help maintain trust in payments in the digital age.

When will it be ready?

We have not yet decided whether to issue a digital euro. We are currently in a preparation phase: we are developing the concept, conducting practical experimentation, listening to the views of the broader public and engaging with stakeholders.

We will decide whether to launch a digital euro project towards the middle of 2021, in order to be prepared for the possible issuance of a digital euro at some point in the future.

We’ve analysed the benefits and challenges of a digital euro

What might it look like?

Experts from the ECB and the national central banks of the euro area have laid down a number of basic requirements for a digital euro, such as easy accessibility, robustness, safety, efficiency, privacy and compliance with the law. These will help us to define what a digital euro might look like. A digital euro would be designed to be interoperable with private payment solutions, facilitating the provision of pan-European solutions and additional services to consumers.

Functional design possibilities

Will the ECB manage a digital euro?

The ECB is the custodian of the euro, be it as banknotes or in digital form, on behalf of the people of Europe. We want to make sure the value of our money is preserved and that any form of digital euro is ultimately safeguarded and regulated by the central bank.

Technical and organisational approaches

Why would a digital euro not be a crypto-asset?

Crypto-assets are fundamentally different from central bank money: their prices are volatile because they lack any stable value and there is no reliable institution backing them. People using a digital euro would have the same level of confidence as with cash, since they are both backed by a central bank, which is something crypto-assets such as stablecoins cannot provide.

Explainer: What is bitcoin?

A new horizon for pan-European payments

Payments are undergoing a fundamental change, and central banks have a key role to play in this process. European payments must be underpinned by a competitive and innovative market capable of meeting consumer demand while preserving European sovereignty. In this context we have set out a comprehensive payments strategy for the digital age.

Have a look at the highlights from the ECB conference

A digital euro for the digital era

A digital euro would be a digital symbol of progress and integration in Europe, said Executive Board member Fabio Panetta when presenting the report on a digital euro. Since the introduction of the euro, the ECB has been responsible for preserving citizens’ trust in our currency. Together with cash, a digital euro would be accessible to all and offer greater choice to ways of paying.

Watch the hearing at the European Parliament

Thanks for sharing your opinion!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the public consultation on a digital euro, which ended on 12 January with more than 8,000 responses.

Explore the outcome of the public consultation in detail in our report. The responses provide valuable input to the Eurosystem’s ongoing assessments and upcoming decisions on a possible digital euro.

Do you have any questions? E-mail us.

Digital euro public consultation report

Podcast

The ECB Podcast: is it time for a digital euro?

What is a digital euro? What would its benefits be and how would it affect the way we make payments? When could it be ready? Our host Michael Steen discusses these questions and more with Ulrich Bindseil, who is responsible for market infrastructures and payments at the ECB.

More (available in English only)
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Report on a digital euro
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