Member of Parliament Christophe De Beukelaer returns the bitcoin he paid for a year to euros

To “move the lines”, Christoph De Beukelaer became the first deputy in the world to “receive” his salary in bitcoin in 2022. However, he will not repeat the experience this year.

Christophe De Beukelaer, a member of the Belgian Parliament for the Brussels-Capital Region, has converted his salary to Bitcoin during 2022, despite serious disruptions in the crypto ecosystem. The only member of parliament to pay with bitcoin at BFM Crypto returned to the consequences of this “political act”, especially in Belgium. Christophe De Beukelaer did not want to repeat his experience this year, but intends to fight to develop the cryptocurrency ecosystem in Belgium and internationally.

When did you discover bitcoin?

Christophe De Beukeleer: At first it was 2017 as an object of speculation. Then people opened my mind to the promise of bitcoin and its fundamentals. However, I am not a bitcoin maximalist, I think that bitcoin has a special role, but this is also the case for other cryptocurrencies. From 2020, I wanted to carry the bitcoin project politically by questioning the Belgian government and organizing various conferences. But I leaned against the wall. So I decided to take a strong political step by choosing to receive my salary in bitcoin for one year in 2022.

Did the Belgian Parliament pay you in Bitcoin?

I made this request, but it was rejected. I was waiting for that (laughs). As a result, I received my salary in euros and at the end of the month I sent it to a Belgian trading platform to convert it to bitcoins. It was not a financial act, it was a political one, I converted my salary and kept it in a ledger key. Today I have bitcoin savings.

2022 was a particularly turbulent year, with bitcoin losing over 70% of its value. This was reported by the Belgian press Echoyou have lost €27,000 in 2022, i.e. 37.5% of your annual salary.

I do not confirm this number. At the end of each month, I smoothed my investment and reduced my risk. If I bill in Euros, we can say I got a bad deal, but if I bill in Bitcoin, then it’s not a bad deal. Today, we always take the euro or the dollar as a reference to look at our salary, but are we so sure of the stability of the euro and the dollar? The same amount of gold today costs 6.6 times more euros than 20 years ago. So if your reference is gold, your salary in euros has lost 85% of its value in 20 years. These are the questions that need to be asked and the emergence of cryptocurrency allows us to ask. If I wanted to do a financial act, I would probably do it differently, here it was a political act. I hold this view for the long term because I also believe in the restoration of this ecosystem. Within a year, the lines of receiving my salary in bitcoin changed.

What exactly has changed in Belgium?

In Belgium, I put my confidence at risk. I discussed a lot with the Belgian deputies so that I could explain the basics to them, which takes time. There is no great movement, but the ideas are gaining strength. I understand that the main parties in Belgium have voiced opinions on cryptocurrencies: how to frame them, should we be for or against?… This has put Brussels and Belgium on the cryptocurrency map. For example, I am working to ensure that foreign players come to Belgium, as Binance or Crypto.com did in France.

What ideas did you want to defend with this project?

I have often been introduced as a cryptocurrency MP. I want to be a member of fair finance. I think the financial world is unfair, especially with 2 billion unbanked people, very few with access to financial markets. Finance has a role in the economy and I believe that cryptocurrency and bitcoin can improve the financial world. The first idea is financial freedom. I am very concerned to see the emergence of central bank digital currencies and restrictions on cash. This is a dangerous tool for more authoritarian powers. A censorship-free currency is essential to the survival of our democracies. The second idea is to challenge our growth model. I am a pragmatic environmentalist. In a world with limited resources, creating the euro, as central banks have done for 30 years, encourages players to produce and consume more. This is where bitcoin, a mathematical currency that does not rely on human emotions, gets interesting. Cryptocurrencies can be added to other forms of money, if we decide bitcoin can be a store of value. Finally, I think we have to fight the lack of material culture. You need specific courses in financial management and budgeting from school. Financial knowledge is the main lever of social freedom.

Do you think bitcoin should be legal tender in European countries like in El Salvador?

I don’t think it should be an overnight legal charge. If we allow players to develop, if we don’t put barriers between banks and the crypto sector, I think adoption will grow organically. I think the mentalities are not ready for it, but there will be more and more goods and services that we can pay for with bitcoin and crypto. But I’m not sure that requiring all businesses to accept payment in cryptocurrency is the best idea. I think that in the long term, we are heading towards a world of great currency competition. Monopoly currency, will end. But how will it be organized until then? I don’t know, but there are reasons to feel that this is where we should go.

You have decided to receive your salary in euros this year. Why not update the experience?

It was a political act, not a financial one. I will continue to put some of my savings into crypto, but this is not the work of the wider public, the political act was public and ended on December 31st.

Are you preparing other strong political acts?

I’m working on a few cryptocurrency projects that should be important, but I can’t talk about them yet. All I can say is that I will make life easier for cryptocurrency players in Belgium, make sure to clarify the bridges between the world of traditional finance and decentralized finance. In addition, I would like to continue thinking about European regulation at the national level.

What do you think about the European MiCa regulation, which is due to come into effect in Europe in 2024?

Care must be taken in its application. I think centralized players should be regulated, especially seeing what happened with FTX. They should be regulated because they own the property of the citizens and should not do anything with them. Here, MiCa brings a number of improvements on how to manage these actors. On the other hand, I don’t really like MiCa’s restrictions on stablecoins. There is a risk to European sovereignty. Moreover, more open, more flexible regulation is needed, these texts should allow for innovation. Similarly, TFR regulations (intended to combat money laundering, Editor’s Note) impose extremely restrictive rules on how you can store your crypto wallets in crypto wallets. This goes to the heart of the crypto project, which is financial freedom. Regulation in Europe will be at the center of the second edition of Brussels Blockchain Week in June 2023.

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