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ECB officials move to ‘preparation phase’ for digital euro

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The governing council of the European Central Bank (ECB) has announced it will begin the ”preparation phase” for the digital euro project following a two-year investigation.

In an Oct. 18 notice, the ECB said it plans to “start laying the foundation for the possible issuance of a digital euro” beginning on Nov. 1, adding the issuance of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) was not a foregone conclusion. The announcement followed the release of a 44-page report on a potential digital euro’s design and distribution.

The preparation phase, as the ECB refers to it, will last two years and focus on finalizing rules for the digital currency as well as selecting possible issuers. Officials said the next phase will include “testing and experimentation” in accordance with user feedback as well as requirements under the central bank.

“After two years, the Governing Council will decide whether to move to the next stage of preparations, to pave the way for the possible future issuance and roll-out of a digital euro,” said the ECB. “The launch of the preparation phase is not a decision on whether to issue a digital euro. That decision will only be considered by the Governing Council once the European Union’s legislative process has been completed.”

Related: EU finance chief: Don’t rush digital euro before new Commission in June 2024

In June, the European Commission proposed a legislative plan for a digital euro, aiming to have users access the CBDC through their banks. Fabio Panetta, an executive board member with the ECB, reiterated his goal of having a digital euro available alongside cash, with many of the same privacy features.

Many in the crypto space criticized ECB President Christine Lagarde for claiming that a digital euro could be used to control user payments in a prank video in which she believed she had been speaking to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The rollout of any digital euro is likely to get the attention of regulators and policymakers, who will have their  election for the European Parliament in June 2024.

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