The EU begins the legislative process for all European electronic payments, an alternative option to Visa and Mastercard

The EU begins the legislative process for all European electronic payments, an alternative option to Visa and Mastercard

BRUSSELS. It will take time, because it will not be available "at least until 2028", but in the meantime the European Union is preparing the ground for the introduction of a Digital Euro, a European electronic payment system, accepted everywhere in the euro area with the possibility of extending it to all Member States, even those without a single currency (currently Bulgaria, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden, Hungary). Precisely because the technical, infrastructural and legislative work takes time, the Commission decides to speed up the process by presenting the proposal that can lay the foundations for "an alternative payment solution at European level, in addition to the existing options today".

No operators, circuits or brands are involved. But in practice, in perspective, the European single market could have a payment instrument other than Visa and Mastercard, of the EU for the EU, for transactions within and between member states. "With the Digital Euro, European operators will play a greater role in a market dominated by foreign operators," notes Valdis Dombrovskis, Commissioner for Commerce. With my colleague Mairead McGuinness, head of Financial Markets and Services, echoing him. "I have no doubts that a digital euro will bring benefits to citizens and businesses throughout the EU", through services offered not by foreign operators and made available free of charge and at no additional cost to individuals.

Without eliminating cash, we want to make it possible to pay for e-commerce services, in shops, for and in the public administration, for Peer to Peer payments and without internet access. The exact same logic behind bank-issued debit cards. It is no coincidence that in Brussels they give an example that helps to understand in which direction the EU is moving. «Today in Europe your Maestro card is not accepted everywhere». Maestro is Mastercard's debit card, which from July can no longer be requested because Mastercard has decided to withdraw it in Europe to replace it with the new Debit Mastercard.

Faced with the growing use of electronic and digital payments, by card and by phone app, it is decided to offer one more all-European option to European citizens and businesses. With the aim, among others, of "strengthening Europe's open strategic autonomy".

There are no practical details. The foundations are laid for what is only the beginning of a journey. However, Dombrovskis clarifies that the future Digital Euro will have, just like the debit cards in use today, caps on the sums to be withdrawn, "to avoid excessive outflows of money" from the banks. Because it will be the European Central Bank that will have to manage everything, that will be the holder of the "new euro" on a par with printed coins and banknotes, but the commercial banks will make it available.

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