A European Union official defended the bloc's decision to give Amazon (AMZN) a prime role in testing a digital euro.
The U.S. retail giant was one of five companies selected by the European Central Bank to develop a user interface for a potential central bank digital currency (CBDC) earlier this month, ahead of a September 2023 decision over whether to actually issue a digital euro.
“The prototyping experiments for the front end are driven by technological considerations,” Jürgen Schaaf, an adviser to ECB senior management on payment issues, said Wednesday in a panel discussion in London that was hosted by the Association for Financial Markets in Europe. “The companies that have been chosen for that five were the most appropriate in terms of the needs that we have for technological tests and experiments.”
Amazon, which will look into the use of CBDC’s in e-commerce, is the only non-EU company included among the five selected. Others include payment companies Nexi and Worldline, Spain’s CaixaBank (CABK), and the European Payments Initiative, a consortium of euro-area banks.
The results of the prototypes won’t automatically feed into the subsequent experimental phase, Schaaf said, suggesting Amazon won’t continue to have favored access.
Ensuring Europe’s resilience and autonomy is one of the stated goals of the digital euro, in a payments market that is dominated by non-European companies like Visa and Mastercard. Schaaf cited the risks if financial sanctions imposed from abroad put the brakes on the EU economy by limiting transactions, but said he didn't want to see a "political" exclusion of U.S. companies.
“Our wish to strengthen our monetary autonomy with a digital euro does not mean that Europe would shut down all its gates for retailers from abroad,” Schaaf said. “There’s no protectionist intention behind that.”
The EU is one of a number of jurisdictions across the world contemplating a CBDC, and if agreed to, the digital euro could be issued in 2026.