ELI Members’ Day Webinar – The Future of Money


On 3 June 2024, ELI celebrated its 13th anniversary. On the occasion, its second ELI Member’s’ Day Webinar on The Future of Money was held.

Pascal Pichonnaz (ELI President; Professor, University of Fribourg) opened the webinar by welcoming participants.

Pichonnaz reminded attendees that ELI was founded on 1 June 2011 and highlighted its recent accomplishments:

  • ELI has strengthened its role in European legal development and reform, notably through significant public consultations with the European Commission, especially in consumer contract law.
  • Since January 2023, ELI has hosted nearly 30 webinars addressing pressing topics with high-ranking representatives from the European Commission, Council of Europe and Venice Commission, among others.
  • ELI has completed six projects and produced translations to further disseminate its outputs.
  • The ELI-UNIDROIT Model European Rules of Civil Procedure Conference in February 2024 underscored the ongoing importance and impact of these model rules since their publication in 2020.

Pichonnaz went on to stress the significance that ELI Member’s Day holds. He recalled last year’s webinar on ‘The Law in the Metaverse’, at which legal issues relating  to Virtual Worlds were explored. In this year’s webinar, he explained, the regulatory and policy challenges of cryptocurrencies and the role of the law in ensuring stability in volatile, decentralised and transnational markets took centre stage.

Hubert de Vauplane (Co-Chair of the High Committee for the Paris Finance Marketplace Working Group on the Evolution of the Concept of Money) spoke on the evolving nature of money and its legal ramifications. He pointed out that traditional monetary law was influenced by two main theories: the statist/nominalist theory, which emphasises trust in money derived from its issuance by public authorities, and the sociological theory, which suggests trust is built through societal use. However, he noted that these theories are being challenged by technological advancements and digitisation, as they affect both national and European legal frameworks. de Vauplane referred to the complexity of the topic in three realms. First, the absence of a clear legal definition of money in French law, unlike in many other jurisdictions, poses challenges for regulators and practitioners due to the ambiguity it creates in legal interpretation. Recent developments in European Union law, such as the Court of Justice of the EU defining legal tender for the Euro in 2021 and the introduction of concepts like virtual currency and electronic money through EU directives, also add complexity to the legal framework. To address these challenges, the High Committee in France is actively working on clarifying legal definitions related to money in their forthcoming report. Finally, internationally, organisations like International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) and the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) are also addressing the legal implications of digital assets and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). UNIDROIT has issued principles on digital assets in private law, while the HCCH is examining the private international law implications of CBDCs, including issues related to their legal nature and the transfer of ownership rights.

Evelien Witlox (Programme Director, Digital Euro, European Central Bank (ECB)) presented the digital Euro as a contemporary remedy for challenges in the payment sector, promising users’ convenience, security and flexibility in digital transactions. She underscored the fact that the digital Euro signifies a progression of central bank money, distinguishing it from cryptocurrencies. Witlox outlined three primary drivers necessitating the digital Euro: a decrease in cash usage, a lack of European digital payment solutions and dependence on international payment providers. According to Witlox, the digital Euro, issued by the ECB, will serve as a retail payment method for various transactions across the Eurozone, aiming to enhance user choice and security in digital transactions alongside existing Euro banknotes. She detailed plans for support peer-to-peer, in-store and e-commerce payments, highlighting the role of payment service providers (PSPs) in the distribution process. Additionally, Witlox emphasised design safeguards as these are essential to ensuring financial stability and privacy protection, while also highlighting the potential for the digital Euro to drive innovation in pan-European payment solutions. Witlox outlined the forthcoming steps in the digital Euro's advancement, including finalising its design, engaging in the legislative process and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards before its issuance.

Denis Beau (First Deputy Governor of the Banque de France) shared insights on the challenges facing the field of money and payment systems from the perspective of the French Central Bank. He began by discussing the changes driven by digitalisation, particularly the trend of tokenisation in finance, which could significantly alter the financial landscape. Beau then addressed the opportunities and risks associated with these transformations, stressing the need to balance benefits with concerns like fragmentation and reliance on non-European entities. He also highlighted the Bank of France's role in shaping regulations for crypto assets and ongoing efforts to identify regulatory avenues, having reaffirmed the bank's commitment to deploying CBDCs in line with policy objectives, despite acknowledging the uncertainty surrounding their implementation.

Sir John Cliff (Former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England) informed those present of the UK's consultation on the digital pound retail, highlighting two primary motivations: addressing the decline of cash and promoting competition and innovation in payment services. He outlined a proposed platform model called Pips (Payment Interface Providers), where the central bank operates the ledger, emphasizing the importance of legal clarity in this arrangement. Cliff noted significant societal concerns raised during the consultation, particularly regarding privacy, programmability, and the potential elimination of cash. He touched upon key legal issues, including the need for primary legislation to address authority, legal tender, and competition law concerns, while also ensuring privacy protection and limiting government programmability in the proposed CBDC model. He highlighted key legal considerations, indicating the ongoing efforts to develop a blueprint for the digital pound while navigating complex regulatory landscapes.

Francesca Provini (Head of the Payment Oversight Division of the Bank of Italy) discussed the ongoing transformation in the retail payments sector, particularly in Italy where cash is still predominantly used for small transactions. However, technological advancements and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted payment habits, leading to substantial growth in the use of payment cards and innovative tools like payment wallets from big tech companies. Provini also noted the potential for the future use of crypto assets, particularly stablecoins regulated by European Union’s Market in Crypto Assets (MiCA). Provini highlighted the Eurosystem's project to explore the issuance of a digital Euro, which involves numerous stakeholders, including supervised intermediaries, consumers, merchants, businesses, and public administrations. She gave insight into Italy’s recent moves, such as the establishment of the Italian Payment Committee by the Bank of Italy, serving as a discussion forum to outline strategic directions for the national retail payment market. Additionally, a working group is being considered to support the Italian delegation in negotiating the digital Euro legislative proposal, analysing the project's impact on payment service providers, and raising awareness among citizens and businesses about the digital Euro's characteristics and benefits.

Marko Dimitrijević (Associate Professor and Jean Monnet Module for European Monetary Law (MONELA); Coordinator at the Faculty of Law University of Niš and Former Vice-Dean for Science and Finances) emphasised the significant impact of monetary measures on constitutional and fundamental rights, particularly in relation to the quality of life and in the context of the public monetary law management. After having described monetary rights as including the right to have solid and healthy currency he added that these are very important especially in smaller economies struggling with price instability and monetary credibility. The rule of law was then highlighted as crucial in central bank management, allowing flexibility to address gaps and emphasising global cooperation in the interest of monetary stability. Dimitrijević discussed the rise of private digital money and its influence on CBDCs. He highlighted the importance of CBDCs as a response to public demand and a means to ensuring that central banks act for the people. Dimitrijević advocated a legal framework that balances technocracy and interoperability, positioning central banks as both sovereign monetary authorities and innovators. He concluded by drawing an analogy between historical monetary standards and the current shift towards digital money, underscoring the need for innovation and cooperation between public and private sectors in monetary policy.

‘My first key message is that cash is here to stay’ began Anna Martin (Financial Services Officer at The European Consumer Organisation). She emphasised cash as an essential, universally accessible payment method, crucial for inclusivity, particularly for the elderly, disabled, asylum seekers, and those valuing budget management or privacy. While cash works for everyone, however, she accepted that it is not effective everywhere, especially online; hence the digital Euro, which is proposed as a necessary public payment solution. Martin explained that private payment methods, including national card schemes, often fail internationally, leaving consumers dependent on non-European options like MasterCard and VISA. She highlighted the digital Euro’s role in ensuring universally accepted, inclusive, and consumer-oriented payment methods. Key points, she explained, include designing the digital Euro for people with disabilities and older users, addressing privacy concerns through offline payment options, and maintaining competitive costs by avoiding monopolies. The digital Euro can provide a safe space for private transactions and ensure fair competition in the payment sector. Martin concluded by underscoring the importance of the above considerations for the future of European payments.

The interventions were followed by lively discussions.