The European Central Bank’s digital euro: an assessment

The European Central Bank (ECB) communicated its first assessment of the digital euro a few weeks ago. In the report published on this, the ECB gives first insights into its ideas about the digital euro. In this guest contribution, Jonas Groß, Philipp Sandner and Alexander Bechtel evaluate the ECB’s report and discuss its three most important aspects.

In October the European Central Bank (ECB) published its long-awaited “ report“to the digital euro, a digital central bank currency (CBDC) for the euro area

The ECB addresses the issue of the “digital euro” from the perspective of its mandate. The main intention of the ECB is to create a digital form of cash for European citizens and not a programmed form of the euro for European industry. However, looking at the ECB’s analysis, it becomes clear that the digital euro outlined by the ECB is not a digital variant of cash. The ECB is currently still keeping an open question as to whether the digital euro will be token-based, non-interest-bearing and anonymous – all of which are key features of cash.

In its report, the ECB emphasizes that it has not yet decided whether a digital euro will actually be introduced. At the same time, however, the central bank stressed that it was ready to introduce a digital euro “if the need arises”. The ECB defines the following scenarios from which the need for a digital euro could arise:

Firstly, the digitization of the European economy should be supported.

Second, a digital euro could be a response to a significant decline in the use of cash as a means of payment

Third, a digital euro could be required to reduce reliance on foreign CBDCs or private digital coins such as Libra, China’s DC / EP, or a US CBDC.

Fourth, a digital euro could open up a new transmission channel for monetary policy.

Fifth, a digital euro could increase the resilience of digital payments so that a hacker attack, natural disaster, pandemic or other extreme event would not restrict the provision of payment services.

In addition to these scenarios, the ECB is also discussing risks that could arise from a digital euro, for example in relation to financial stability, regulation, IT security, capital flows and the euro exchange rate. The ECB emphasizes that such risks must be adequately addressed and therefore stipulates requirements that a digital euro must meet in order to counteract such risks.