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French economic minister Bruno Le Maire has declared that his government intends to block development of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency in Europe because of threats it poses to financial security and stability.
During remarks at an OECD conference dedicated to cryptocurrencies, Le Maire said the risks are simply too great and trust in Facebook too low, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.
“I want to be absolutely clear: In these conditions, we cannot authorize the development of Libra on European soil,” Le Maire said.
He then added a stern warning about the potential for harm, saying: “The monetary sovereignty of the (European) states is in play.”
Le Maire has been outspoken in his opposition to Libra in recent months. But while it appears he now wants to get all of Europe on board, it wasn’t clear from his remarks which organizational body or mechanism could create such a continent-wide ban.
Still, his statement was a sign of the immense distrust still haunting the social media giant.
In June, Facebook announced its cryptocurrency Libra, which it said would be governed by a global association of 28 organizations based in Geneva. The Libra network that enables the cryptocurrency is expected to go live in 2020.
Facebook also created Calibra, a subsidiary to build financial services for Libra, including a digital wallet that works across the company’s Messenger and WhatsApp services.
“Libra holds the potential to provide billions of people around the world with access to a more inclusive, more open financial ecosystem. We look forward to participating in the Libra network as a founding member, as well as through providing our community with access to Libra through Calibra,” said Calibra head David Marcus in a statement at the time. “We know the journey is just beginning, but together we can achieve Libra’s mission to create a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that will empower billions of people.”
But since Libra was announced, Facebook has encountered a torrent of criticism from policymakers and financial watchdogs at home and abroad.
At Congressional hearings in July, U.S. senators heavily bashed the plan.
“Facebook has demonstrated through scandal after scandal that it doesn’t deserve our trust,” Democratic senator Sherrod Brown, ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, said in his opening remarks. “We’d be crazy to give them a chance to let them experiment with people’s bank accounts.”
U.K. officials have also expressed doubts, but France has been more vocal in its skepticism.
Over the summer, France led the creation of a G7 task force to study the impact of cryptocurrencies such as Libra and how central banks can regulate them.
According to Le Figaro‘s report, Le Maire said he is disturbed by the risks involved in letting a company with more than 2 billion users privatize a currency. “Any failure in the functioning of this currency, in the management of its reserves, could create considerable financial disorder,” he said.
Le Maire also said currencies such as Libra could undercut recent progress in curtailing international financing of illegal and violent activities.
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