The Federal Council of the Government of Switzerland has requested a report on the risks and opportunities of introducing its own state-backed digital currency, or so called “e-franc”, Reuters reported May 17.
The Federal Council moved to investigate the subject at the prompt of Swiss lawmaker and vice-president of the Social Democratic Party, Cedric Wermuth. Now, the lower house of the Swiss parliament has to decide whether to support the Federal Council’s request for research. Should the proposal be approved, the Swiss Finance Ministry will conduct a study on the subject. No time frame has been published regarding the process. The Council stated:
“The Federal Council is aware of the major challenges, both legal and monetary, which would be accompanied by the use of an e-franc… It asks that the proposal be adopted to examine the risks and opportunities of an e-franc and to clarify the legal, economic and financial aspects of the e-franc.”
The idea to develop a national cryptocurrency was put forward in February by Romeo Lacher, chairman of the Swiss stock exchange SIX. He said, “An e-franc under the control of the central bank would create a lot of synergies – so it would be good for the economy.”
Other traditional financial institutions in the country have remained wary of the introduction of cryptocurrencies. Board Member of the Swiss National Bank Andréa Maechler said last month, that private-sector digital currencies are better and less risky than nationally-issued versions, as a government-issued cryptocurrency could increase the risk of so-called “bank runs.”
Earlier this month, Switzerland’s largest bank UBS declined to offer trading in Bitcoin and other digital currencies. The bank’s chairman Axel Weber called for stricter controls on cryptocurrencies, stating “[cryptocurrencies] are often not transparent and, therefore, open to being abused.”
Other countries have also begun considering the possibility of a national digital currency. Sweden’s Riksbank is investigating whether they should issue an e-krona, as the use of physical banknotes in the country continue to decline.