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Toward a cashless society: European Commission about to hamper civil rights?

Nieuws, gepost door: Devin Turner op 03/05/2017 05:11:52

Wanneer: 03/05/2017 - 09:53

The European Union is seeking cash limits in push for a ‘cashless society’. However, as the effort picks up steam, critics are lambasting the controversial agenda from all angles, highlighting the dangers of the plan and the huge threat it poses to privacy, freedom and basic civil rights.

On January 23rd 2017, the European Union Commission issued an ‘Initiative Roadmap’ for 2018. The idea was to present a plan to fight against the financing of terrorism. However, it has progressively transformed into a ‘payments restriction initiative’ and is today even named as a roadmap ‘toward a cashless society’.

The policy is basically looking to the “Regulation on the controls of cash entering or leaving the Community and relevance of potential upper limits to cash payments.” (1) The entire initiative is based on the presupposed fact that payments in cash are widely used to finance terrorist activities. This argument was already used in 2016 when the European Commission announced the discontinuation of the EUR 500 banknote. ‘The initiative should be seen in conjunction with the ECB’s decision of 4 May to discontinue the production of the EUR 500 banknote and stop the issuance of this denomination by around 2018 to address concerns that these notes could be used in financing illicit activities’’ stated the Economic and Financial Affairs Council.

Although the ending of production and issuance of the €500 banknote has created very little noise, we are today facing a major dilemma; are we ready to get rid of cash just because it may have financed some criminal activities?

The answer is complex because to this day, the European Union is unable to give any data on how much cash is financing terrorism or illegal enterprises. They maintain that ‘it is difficult to quantify the legitimate or illegitimate use of cash’ (1). The logic of banning cash is only based on no solid evidence and if the result might in fact impact terrorism and criminality, it will also impact every single European.

It is in fact almost impossible to evaluate the share of cash used to finance illegal actions however it is possible to look at the amount of cash in circulation in each country and to correlate the data to their level of criminality. Germany is the number one country of the share of payment volume made in cash in Europe with 82%. It’s 65% in Austria, 52% in the Netherlands. In the U.S, the number has fallen to 46%.

When looking at the crime index for these countries, the U.S remains on top (53rd country) in the world with a 48.76 Index, France is 67th, and Germany comes as one of the countries with the least criminal activities arriving at the 95th position… And yet, it is by far the one using the more cash. Of course, we would have to look at other factors to fully understand the dynamics but it proves that the European Union is wrong to pretend there is a correlation between the amount of cash in circulation and criminality or terrorism.

For the European Union, the real problem is the anonymity of transactions: “Cash has the important feature of offering anonymity to transactions. But, such anonymity can also be misused for money laundering and terrorist financing purposes. The possibility to conduct large cash payments facilitates money laundering and terrorist financing activities because of the difficulty to control cash payment transactions.”

While this statement is true, it is wrong to think that eradicating cash will eradicate terrorism. ‘It is well documented that the 9/11 attackers spent months living in the United States. They rented homes, used bank accounts and credit cards to finance daily living, to merge anonymously into society and of course pay for everything required to perpetrate one of the biggest ever terrorist events in history. Most of this was financed by electronic bank transfers, not payments in cash’, writes Graham Vanbergen.

We also recently found out that the terrorists of the Paris attacks of January 2015 had bank accounts, credit cards and mobile phones that they used to perpetrate their atrocities.

The semantic used by the EU Commission to defend the roadmap towards a cashless society is in fact far from the reality. The unofficial reasons that are pushing European leaders to go cashless might be much less acceptable. A cashless society will kill off basic rights in the sense that all transactions would be tracked, recorded and potentially used against you. The loss of anonymity when it comes to financial movements isn't only a problem for criminals but for everyone.

Do we really want to live in a world where each and every single money transaction is subjected to a bank, to an electronic payment method and to leaving footprints and data? That is the crucial question that Europeans will have to ask themselves in the coming months.

(1) EU steps up the pace for cashless society in 2017/18, Global Research, True Publica, Graham Vanbergen, February 6th 2017

Tags: cashless society

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