New Europe-wide poll highlights citizens’ preference for national control over cryptocurrencies

Survey suggests financial regulations - including those relating to cryptocurrencies - should be determined by Member State governments rather than at EU level. Brian Johnson reports.
The Parliament Magazine

By Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is Managing Editor of The Parliament Magazine

28 Sep 2021

That’s the frank findings of a new poll of 31,500 people in twelve EU countries. The results reveal a growing interest in cryptocurrencies, with roughly one in ten respondents having used digital currencies to pay for goods or services. The survey, carried out by global pollsters Redfield & Wilton Strategies, is the largest ever conducted on cryptocurrency regulation in Europe. It covered Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

In what may come as a shock to the European Commission’s Economic and Financial Affairs directorate, (DG ECFIN) and to MEPs on the Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee, when respondents were asked where they thought their country’s financial regulations should be determined, most opted for their national governments rather than ‘Brussels’.

A colossal 76 percent of Dutch respondents said they thought their own government was better suited to regulating the financial sector than those in the EU institutions. Similar high percentages - 70 percent in Estonia, 68 percent in Italy and 67 percent in Greece (although perhaps no surprise there) - reflected the strength of support of EU citizens for regulating at the domestic level.

Surprisingly, Hungary recorded the lowest majority (49 percent) of respondents opting for their national governments. However, Viktor Orbán’s administration still managed a 14-point victory over the EU, which is unlikely to go down well in the Berlaymont office of Financial services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness.

A similar trend was seen on the question of who should control the regulation of cryptocurrencies, with the majority of those polled - with only a few exceptions - preferring their own governments. Greece (51 percent), Italy (47 percent) and Estonia (46 percent) topped the list of countries with the strongest support for domestic regulation of cryptocurrencies.

Commenting, Louisa Idel, Head of European Insights at Redfield & Wilton told the Parliament Magazine, “Our research finds little appetite for the creation of a centralised digital Euro. Many would even potentially interpret such a move as a power grab.”

As part of its Digital Finance Strategy, the European Commission put forward a ‘Markets in Crypto-assets’ Regulation in September 2020. This legislative proposal aims to create a fully harmonised European market for crypto assets by establishing a legal crypto taxonomy and defining rules for issuers and service providers. Central to the Commission’s proposal is the regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges and stablecoins, a relatively new type of cryptocurrency that often have their value pegged to another asset, such as fiat money or gold. 

Opinions were mixed on whether the EU and the European Central Bank (ECB) intervene too much in national economies. Greece, however, stood out with 61 percent of respondents they meddle too often. This is unsurprising, given that the scars of the EU’s intervention during the country’s debt crisis and consequent austerity measures have yet to fully heal.

However, as mentioned there was no clear-cut Europe-wide view on this issue, with Lithuania (41 percent), Spain (39 percent), Estonia (36 percent) and Portugal (36 percent) all providing majorities that believe the EU and ECB intervene at the right level. 

While there was no blanket rejection of EU economic intervention, there was also no clear majority in favour of a ‘more Europe’ approach, suggesting that there may be little support for any further increase in EU economic and financial intervention in national economies.

“When asked where they thought their country’s financial regulations should be determined, most opted for their national governments”

Of the 12 countries surveyed, ten would likely support the creation of a national cryptocurrency specifically to assert the country’s monetary independence from the EU. “Citizens’ preference for national control”, explains Idel, “suggests that some may view the domestic regulation of cryptocurrencies as an opportunity to break free from a Brussels they sometimes perceive as overly assertive.”

The survey concludes that the economic opportunities awaiting those who create a crypto-friendly regulatory framework without stifling innovation are significant. It argues that EU policymakers, “would be wise to follow the path of creating a favourable legal and regulatory framework that allows stablecoins to operate smoothly”, warning, “If the EU does not move first on this issue, others will.”