EU is checking cash cap
Brussels – The European Commission is considering European wide limits on cash payments. Germany is already resisting. Critics fear an end for coins and bills – with far-reaching consequences.
The idea of the EU Commission seems inconspicuous – but it could have something to do with it: “Cash payments are widespread in terror financing”, according to an action plan of the Brussels authority. Therefore, it pays to think about upper limits for cash transactions. After the EU finance ministers had already commissioned the Commission last year to examine the need for it, there is now movement in the matter.
Recently, Brussels launched an impact assessment analysis, gathering feedback from various parts of Europe. “The Commission is currently exploring the question of whether regulations on high cash payments at EU level are necessary,” says a spokesman.
“No cash means total state control”
There are already such limits in a number of countries, and there is some approval even for a uniform Europe-wide requirement. But especially in Germany, the enthusiasm is limited.
“Cash has to stay!”, Explains the president of the Federal Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (BVMW), Mario Ohoven. “An upper limit for cash transactions would be the first step on the way to the complete abolition of bills and coins.” And with this abolition he sees a lot of negative consequences connected.
“No cash means total state control,” says Ohoven. “Under the pretext of combating crime and terrorism, the EU Commission is aiming for a glassy citizen.”
Cash very popular with Germans
Ohoven knows at least a not inconsiderable part of the German population behind him. According to studies, mobile numbers via smartphone are also increasing in the Federal Republic of Germany. But unlike, for example, Scandinavian countries, which have long been paid regularly with a map or a smartphone app, note and coin are still popular in Germany. According to a study by the Bundesbank, in 2014, 79 percent of payments in this country were settled in cash. “I think nothing of the considerations of the Commission to set uniform ceilings for cash payments,” says CSU MEP Markus Ferber.
The Federal Government is aware of the explosiveness: “No one has the intention …”, Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) declared visibly annoyed last year after a meeting with his European counterparts in Brussels.
The historically charged formulation did not bring Schäuble to an end – DDR state and party leader Walter Ulbricht had formulated the sentence in 1961 with a view to a possible construction of a wall between West and East Berlin similar. But the Federal Finance Minister is serious: For a uniform regulation of cash caps speak a lot, he says. However, no one wants to limit how much cash people should own. And it is certainly not about the complete abolition of notes and coins. The Federal Government considers a cash payment limit of 5,000 euros to make sense.
500-euro bill is abolished
“There is a hysterical attitude in Germany,” says Green MEP Sven Giegold. “Just because a border is being discussed, there is no cash abolition.”
The debate also picked up pace as the European Central Bank (ECB) announced it would withdraw the 500-euro bill by 2018 and stop the issue. Because banknotes are the sole competence of the central bank. “This initiative should be seen in conjunction with the ECB’s decision,” it says now in the recent Commission letter on the cash limits – and thus provides the critics with more ammunition.
In the foreseeable future, the discussion will resume with the EU finance ministers. In March, the EU Commission will initially launch extensive public consultations – the next opportunity for critics and advocates to speak out.