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6 Aug, 2023 12:48

EU state wants to enshrine ‘right to cash’ in constitution

Austria has been lagging behind other European countries on digital payments
EU state wants to enshrine ‘right to cash’ in constitution

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has proposed that the country enshrines the use of cash in its constitution, to ease fears that a citizen’s right to use paper money and coins will disappear.

According to a three-point plan issued on Thursday, the right to cash would be protected in the constitution, while the national bank would be obliged to provide the necessary cash flow to sustain a cash economy. The plan would oblige the country’s bankers to locate outlets at a reasonable proximity to citizens, as payments using cash must be possible for all.

“More and more people are worried that cash could be restricted as a means of payment in Austria,” the chancellor said. “In Austria alone, €47 billion (nearly $52 billion) is withdrawn from ATMs every year and, on average, every Austrian carries €102 in cash.”

He also pointed out that, in Austria, 67% of payments under €20 (about $22) are made with cash.

“Cash is elementary as a means of payment. It is important that we create an unambiguous legal framework in order to secure it accordingly,” Nehammer explained, adding that “everyone should have the opportunity to freely decide how, and with what, they want to pay.”

Nehammer has appointed Finance Minister Magnus Brunner to work on implementing the plan. Additionally, a roundtable assembling relevant ministries, industry representatives and the national bank will be held in September to determine the best way to make it happen.

While payments by card have become increasingly popular across many European states, Austria, like neighboring Germany, remains relatively attached to cash, particularly for smaller, everyday items.

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