Can Bitcoin become legal tender in Europe? One German MP thinks so

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Joana Cotar began her journey as a politician in 2013 after she joined the newly founded Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party. Her introduction to Bitcoin happened the same year when her brother told her about the foundational cryptocurrency.

In the German federal elections of 2017, Cotar became a member of the Bundestag — the German federal parliament — as part of the AfD’s federal executive. On Nov. 21, 2022, Cotar left the party after 10 years for several reasons.

As an independent member of parliament (MP), Cotar was now free to fight for what she believed in without the limitations of a political party.

Cotar took a deep dive into Bitcoin (BTC) while studying the principles of the Austrian School of Economics and realized that she had a chance to advocate Bitcoin on the political stage.

Cotar introduced a draft bill in late 2023 that asked the Bundestag to call on the federal government to make Bitcoin more accessible in Germany. The draft bill would allow German citizens to pay taxes with BTC and make provisions for researching how Bitcoin mining could stabilize the energy grid and monetize renewable energy.

But the most ambitious line item is to make Bitcoin legal tender in Germany.

For this to happen, members of the Bundestag would have to be convinced of the positive attributes of Bitcoin. In Cotar’s experience, members of parliament lack basic knowledge about how crypto works and tend to only hear about the dark side of Bitcoin.

Cotar’s ongoing awareness campaign, the “Bitcoin im Bundestag” initiative, will host a launch event on Feb. 22, 2024. The event prioritizes German parliamentarians, although regular citizens may attend.

El Salvador was the first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender in September 2021, with mixed results. Could crypto adoption on a national scale work in Europe? According to Cotar, there is a lot at stake, as, in her opinion, “it would change society” for good.

CT: Why did you get into politics?

JC: The reason I went into politics was to fight for freedom. I am from Romania. I know what it means not to have political freedom or personal freedom. The reason I got into politics was to defend this in Germany.

CT: Why did you include Bitcoin in your political narrative?

JC: I had a wow moment when I added Bitcoin to my political career; I discovered how that solved many problems. Bitcoin is the freedom currency we need to solve a lot of problems.

I tried to push it within my party, Alternative für Deutschland. You can find all the measures I tried on my website, but I was unsuccessful.

I was in charge of digitalization, but the typical response was fear and the inability to trust computers. I had no chance to push my ideas and eventually left the party in 2022.

At that point, I realized I was free. I’m not responsible for what my party is saying. I can do whatever I want, so let’s use the remaining two and a half years I have in the German parliament to do something relevant.

CT: Politicians can often use Bitcoin as a talking point on their campaigns without genuinely being concerned about it. What about you?

JC: As far as I can see, I won’t be able to be elected in the next elections in Germany in 2025. There is no positive effect for me. I can’t be voted for, so what can I gain from the voters?

I’ll be out of politics in 2025 if everything stays the same. Suppose there is a party with conservative values and exceedingly liberal regarding the economy economics, which includes Bitcoin, then I might continue.

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I don’t see any party concentrating on freedom; that will be it for me. Bitcoin is something really dear to my heart. I’ve never seen anybody return after diving into the rabbit hole about Bitcoin. Once you realize how many benefits Bitcoin has, you know it’s the right thing to do.

CT: You have claimed you wish Bitcoin to be legal tender in Germany. Is it possible in Germany to recognize BTC as a legal tender at the municipal, state or federal level?

JC: I think having Bitcoin as a legal tender in Germany is possible.

We could start small in some cities, as in the case of Lugano, Switzerland. We could begin in Berlin or Munich and scale up from there. Afterward, we can implement this throughout Germany.

CT: In your draft law, you state that Germany should form a reserve of Bitcoin as it has with gold. How would this work? Which percentage would you allocate?

JC: Yes, regarding the percentage, we would need to talk about what precise allocation we would be willing to invest in Bitcoin.

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Gold is heavy to transport. We don’t have it in our country; it is located in New York and other countries. Buying Bitcoin as a reserve would be a clever investment and a sign that we believe in Bitcoin.

CT: BTC as legal tender in Germany or Europe is a major feat. Are there any more realistic or achievable laws that could create positive awareness about Bitcoin?

JC: Yes. We may have to start small; switching to Bitcoin can’t happen overnight.

My first step would be to pass a law that made it possible to pay taxes in Bitcoin. Afterward, I would look into implementing Bitcoin mining into the electric grid.

CT: When you mention implementing Bitcoin mining, would this mean regulating Bitcoin mining? Can you offer a specific action you would take?

JC: Currently, they [the German government] are considering making life as hard as possible for Bitcoin miners. I want to pass a law that makes Bitcoin mining in Germany as easy as possible so they can open their business in the country.

I’m not a fan of subsidies, as I believe in free markets. We could attract them with a different tax policy or provide a simple bureaucratic system.

We could use Bitcoin mining to our advantage. Few people know that Bitcoin could help stabilize the actual crazy energy approach in Germany. We rely entirely on wind and solar and can’t use nuclear power. The situation has created an energy grid that cannot always deliver energy.

CT: Who would oppose making Bitcoin legal tender in Germany?

JC: I think the conservatives will oppose it because they fear losing power. They’re always the parties who want to control the people, which is crazy for me. I would think that the leftist parties would be far more interested in monitoring the people, but in Germany, it’s the conservatives.

Regarding the Green Party, they would reject it at this moment because of its high energy cost. They think it would damage our environment, but if we let them know it’s the contrary, they may change their mind.

I would tell them how Bitcoin mining can stabilize the network, which is actually a disaster in Germany. I think they will change their minds because that’s their primary obstacle. Furthermore, if you would inform a leftist party how Bitcoin can help in real-case scenarios in the world for human rights, I think they could change their minds. But we need someone who explains all these things to the members of parliament.

CT: If, hypothetically, Bitcoin became legal throughout the EU or in Germany, how would society change?

JC: Bitcoin is a kind of freedom currency. When we implement Bitcoin, the government won’t have the power it has now. Society would regain control over their own money. It wouldn’t be so easy for the government to take it away.

Additionally, I think being one of the first countries to make Bitcoin a legal tender will draw many people into Germany with new ideas, creating an entrepreneurial rise.

CT: If no currency printing is possible, stimulus packages or short-term economic solutions wouldn’t be possible. How would the political arena change?

JC: I think politicians would have to think things through. Few politicians think about how they spend our money because you can print it. If they run out of money, they can print it again. There is no accountability.

It wouldn’t be possible to try out measures, and if the money’s gone, print new money.

I always said that the euro crisis we had when the central bank printed euros to help Greece wouldn’t be possible. I don’t think we would still have the euro if we couldn’t have all the stimulus packages.

Politicians wouldn’t be able to spend and influence the economy as they do through inflation through the politics of the central banks, which, in my opinion, liberates the people from many hardships.

If we have Bitcoin as a legal tender, they would have to think about how they spend the money and question themselves; for example, they would need to think about whether we invest in wars or if we invest in our economics.

We would definitely need politicians who know what they are doing. Unfortunately, that’s something you don’t have at this moment.

CT: What would happen to the national debt?

JC: Difficult questions. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. We would have to pay our debt back, but I don’t know if any country will be able to pay their debts in the future.

CT: If Bitcoin were to be legal tender tomorrow, do you think the Bitcoin protocol is prepared?

JC: That is a good question. Our example is El Salvador, but Germany is much bigger.

I’m not into the technical business of Bitcoin, so I can’t respond appropriately. I hope it is prepared as politicians in other smaller countries advocate for Bitcoin to be legal tender.

The Lightning Network is easy to use and aims to solve this issue. I guess that won’t be a problem.

CT: As with El Salvador, would you want to recognize Bitcoin as legal tender in tandem with the euro?

JC: I think having two parallel currencies is a good idea. I don’t think replacing the euro from the beginning would be a good idea.

Having a couple of years with two official currencies will provide insight into whether it’s possible to switch to only Bitcoin and assess if it’s best to have both running simultaneously.

CT: How did the idea for your educational campaign “Bitcoin im Bundestag” emerge? What is its objective?

JC: Luckily, my colleagues and employees here knew about cryptocurrencies. At first, they were all into different cryptocurrencies; now, they’re all Bitcoin only.

The influence of the employees on the members of parliament is huge. It’s essential to talk directly to the MPs but also the team behind them.

My colleagues explained everything you need to know about Bitcoin to me. Then, we sat together and planned how to promote this in the German parliament.

We started this initiative mainly to explain to my fellow MPs what Bitcoin is and other related topics, such as its role in energy, how it can help the unbanked, etc.

At Bitcoin im Bundestag, experts are invited to talk about the Bitcoin network and its news trends. If I can’t run again and can’t continue this campaign, I would be happy if at least MPs were well-informed. Ideally, an official Bitcoin group will emerge in the German parliament.

We started in 2023 with a website, but we don’t have a deadline. The official event will begin on Feb. 22, 2024. If we are successful, we won’t need this initiative anymore because my fellow MPs will have enough knowledge about what Bitcoin is; mission accomplished.

CT: Was recruiting Bitcoiners for the campaign hard since politics are involved?

JC: I know a lot of Bitcoiners are not interested in politics. Their approach is to leave us alone and don’t regulate us. Although I’ve met so many Bitcoiners during the last month, I have to say these are the people we need in politics. These people get it and know why freedom is so important. I understand that politics is a dirty business, but we need people with new and good ideas.

Currently, we have a lot of Bitcoiners agreeing to come to the Bitcoin im Bundestag. They didn’t know how to react to certain politicians; they were worried about which ones could hurt them or be positive for their cause. I responded that it doesn’t matter if it’s left, right, up or down; what matters is Bitcoin. Let’s focus on that perspective and try to educate people.

CT: What does the average German MP know about Bitcoin?

JC: I’ve spoken to some MPs who have literally told me that they have no idea what Bitcoin is; that’s the problem. They have no idea how you can positively use Bitcoin. That’s why we need to start; we have to educate them.

Many go on with the narrative that Bitcoin is only used for money laundering and terrorism. I think that it would be a huge success if we discussed Bitcoin but with knowledge.

With a few MPs, a possible ban or limitations on Bitcoin could be halted or at least discussed.

CT: Do you have any plans for 2025? Would you join a party to continue your political career?

JC: I’m not joining another party. I will only join another party when I believe in them. I’m not going to get into a party just to be re-elected. Some liberal, conservative parties and new parties created in the last couple of months or last year have asked me to join them.

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I’ve been in a political party for around 10 years. Toward the end, it was hard to wake up in the morning and ask myself, how can I defend that I am a member of the AfD? One day, I couldn’t take it anymore and left.

When the term ends, then, I’m back to normal. I’ve never been a politician; I hadn’t been a politician before I went in. I had my own business as a project manager, so I didn’t need politics.

It’s a crazy business; it’s a dirty business. I’ve been in politics for 12 years, and if that’s the end, that’s the end. But it doesn’t mean I will stop; I can lobby for Bitcoin in politics.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.