ECB Official Defends Amazon’s Role in ‘Autonomous’ Digital Euro

A European Union official defended the bloc's decision to give Amazon (AMZN) a prime role in trialing a digital euro.

The U.S. retail giant was one of five companies selected by the European Central Bank (ECB) to develop a user interface for the central bank digital currency (CBDC) earlier this month, ahead of a September 2023 decision over whether to actually issue money in a new format.

“The prototyping experiments for the front end are driven by technological considerations,” Jürgen Schaaf, an advisor to ECB senior management on payment issues, said at a panel 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.”

Read more: ECB Picks Amazon, Nexi, 3 More to Prototype Digital Euro Apps

Amazon, which will look into the use of CBDC’s in e-commerce, is the only non-EU company included in the selection, which also comprises payment companies Nexi and Worldline, Spain’s CaixaBank (CABK), and the European Payments Initiative, a consortium of euro area banks.

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 which is dominated by foreign players 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. firms.

“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 currently contemplating a CBDC, and if agreed to the digital euro could be issued in 2026.

Read more: Digital Euro to Focus on Personal Use, Not Web3, EU Officials Say