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France wants to block Facebook's new Libra cryptocurrency from Europe

France wants to block Facebook's new Libra cryptocurrency from Europe
By Euronews
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France's finance minister says the Libra cryptocurrency could damage "monetary sovreignty".


France's finance minister has said the European Union should introduce a common set of rules to govern virtual currencies, which at the moment are regulated at the national level. 

This comes on the back of his Thursday's comments when he said he planned to try and block the development of Facebook's newly-unveiled cryptocurrency Libra in Europe.

Bruno Le Maire made the comments at an OECD conference on Thursday, adding that such a block would protect "monetary sovereignty".

He said: "I want to be absolutely clear: In these conditions, we cannot authorise the development of Libra on European soil."

Arriving at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Helsinki on Friday, Le Maire said a "common framework" on digital currencies was needed at the EU level. 

He also urged the creation of a European "public digital currency," but failed to give any more details.  

Facebook unveiled its new venture in June, with plans to allow users to make payments across Facebook-owned apps, including Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.

It is just one of 28 companies that are supporting the development, including payment giants Paypal, VISA and MasterCard.

An application was recently made for a payment licence in Switzerland, indicating the social network planned to centralise the digital currency there, which is set for launch early next year.

But this new venture has also led to widespread criticism that it could take away control from governments, and could cause issues with the global economy.

Concerns, too, about Facebook's history in dealing with the protection of users' data, the regulation of extremism online and its role in the spread of fake news has also been raised.

France has long been vocal in opposition of the cryptocurrency, and the UK has expressed its reservations, too.

Speaking to Financial News, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman, MP Damian Collins said the new currency made him think Facebook was "almost trying to turn itself into its own country".

He added: "It’s a global organisation that doesn’t have physical boundaries but basically has a global community who are solely under the oversight of Mark Zuckerberg."

Dante Disparte, the Libra Association's head of policy and communications, said in an email to Euronews that the comments from France underscored the importance of "ongoing work with regulatory bodies around the world."

He added: "We welcome this engagement and have deliberately designed a long launch runway to have these conversations, educate stakeholders and incorporate their feedback in our design.

"The Libra Association and its members are committed to working with regulatory authorities to achieve a safe, transparent, and consumer-focused implementation of the Libra project.

"We recognize that blockchain is an emerging technology, and that policymakers must carefully consider how its applications fit into their financial system policies."

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