Austrian Activist on Cash Crusade
An Austrian carpenter has collected almost 500,000 signatures on a petition asking for the right to pay in cash to be enshrined in Austria’s Constitution. Given the nation’s population is just under nine million, the signatories amount to some one in 18 citizens, and have greatly exceeded the 100,000 required for a debate to be launched in Parliament.
Josef Binder, who lives on the outskirts of Vienna, says he does not own a credit card and has a powerful preference for cash over other payment options. When asked in an interview with Le Monde whether he continues to pay cash when vacationing, he says that while it has become more difficult, it is still manageable if booking through a travel agency.
I pay cash everywhere. Cash is freedom.
Binder’s petition is in response to a proposed EU-wide limit on cash payments of €10,000. The measure is part of an action plan to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing and, while Cash Matters full supports the rest of the plan, we explain in a previous article why a limit on cash payments would be misguided and a step in the wrong direction. The limit would have an immediate impact on Austria, where there is currently no limit on cash-based transactions.
Cash is neither the motivation nor the reason for shadow economies, crime or terrorist attacks.
Austria has already made its opposition to the proposed cash payment limit very clear, which is unsurprising given it is one of Europe’s most cash-loving countries. In March 2020, while people around the world turned to cash as a store of value as the pandemic began, Austria’s central bank reported citizens withdrew more than four billion euros in banknotes.
Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said it was ‘an illusion’ to think restricting cash payments would reduce criminal activity, echoing Binder’s sentiment that ‘cash is freedom’ and noting that only in Cyprus and Germany do people pay more with cash than in Austria.
There is a clear yes from Austria to fight against money laundering and terrorism financing, and an equally clear no to attacks on cash. Cash gives people a sense of security, independence and freedom. We want to preserve that freedom for people.
Binder’s petition will now ensure the defence of cash for transactions of all sizes is once again brought to the attention of Austria’s Parliament, though the outcome of this—and the ultimate resolution on the EC’s proposed limit—remains to be seen.