MP Christophe De Beukelaer paid for a year in bitcoin turns into euros

To “move the lines”, Christophe De Beukelaer became the first MP in the world to “receive” his salary in bitcoins in 2022. But he will not repeat the experience this year.

Belgian Member of Parliament for the Brussels-Capital Region Christophe De Beukelaer converted his salary to bitcoin throughout 2022 despite severe disruptions in the crypto ecosystem. At BFM Crypto, the only MP paid in bitcoin returned to the consequences of this “political act”, especially in Belgium. Christophe De Beukelaer did not want to repeat the experience this year, but intends to fight to develop the crypto ecosystem in Belgium and internationally.

When did you discover bitcoin?

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

Belgian parliament paid you in bitcoin?

I made this request but it was rejected. I expected 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 into bitcoins. It was not a financial act, it was political, I converted my salary and kept it in a ledger key. Today, that’s why I have bitcoin savings.

2022 has been a particularly turbulent year, with bitcoin losing more than 70% of its value. According to Belgian media echoesyou have lost 27,000 euros in 2022, i.e. 37.5% of your annual salary.

I do not confirm this figure. I smoothed my investment at the end of each month and reduced the risk. If I count in euros, we can say I made a bad deal, but if I count in bitcoins, then it’s not a bad deal. Today we always take the euro or the dollar as a reference to see our salary, but are we so sure about the stability of the euro and the dollar? For the same amount of gold, today you need 6.6 times more euros than 20 years ago. So if your reference is gold, your salary received in euros has lost 85% of its value in 20 years. These are questions that need to be asked and that the advent of crypto allows us to ask. If I had wanted to do a financial act, I probably would have done it differently, here was a political act. I save this long-term saving, because I also believe in the recovery of this ecosystem. After taking my salary in bitcoin for a year, it moved the lines.

What exactly has changed in Belgium?

In Belgium I put my credibility at risk, I discussed a lot with the Belgian MPs, to whom I was able to explain the basics, it takes time. There is no big movement, but ideas are gaining ground. I understand that the main Belgian parties have started reflections on cryptocurrencies: how to frame them, should we be for or against?… This has put Brussels and Belgium on the cryptocurrency map. I am also working to ensure that foreign players also come to Belgium, as Binance or have done in France for example.

What ideas did you want to protect with this project?

I have often been portrayed as a crypto MP. Me, I want to be a member of fair finance. I think the financial world is unfair, especially with 2 billion unbanked people, very few people who have access to the financial markets. Finance has a role to play in the economy and I believe cryptos and bitcoin can improve the financial world. The first idea is financial freedom. I am very concerned to see the advent of central bank digital currencies and the limitation of cash. It is a dangerous tool for the most authoritarian powers. For the survival of our democracies, an uncensorable currency is important. The second idea is to fight against our growth model. I am a pragmatic environmentalist. In a world of finite resources, creating the euro, as central banks have done for 30 years, means encouraging players to produce and consume more and more. This is where bitcoin is interesting, as a mathematical currency on which human emotions have no influence. Cryptocurrencies can be added to other forms of money, bitcoin can be a store of value if we decide. Finally, I think we have to fight the lack of financial culture. From school you need concrete courses in financial management and budgeting. Financial literacy is a key lever for social emancipation.

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

I don’t think it should be legal overnight. 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 mindsets are not ready for it, but there will be more and more goods and services that we will be able to pay for in bitcoin and crypto. But I’m not sure requiring all businesses to accept crypto payments is the best idea. I think that in the long term we are moving towards a world of great currency competition. The currency monopoly will end. So how will it be organized until then? I don’t know, but there are grounds that make us think this is where we should go.

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

It was a political act and not a financial one. I will continue to put some of my savings into crypto, but this is no longer the business of the general public, the political act was public and ended on December 31st.

Are you preparing other strong political acts?

I’m working on some cryptography-related projects that should be significant, but I can’t talk about them yet. What I can only say is that I will make life easier for crypto players in Belgium, make sure that the bridges between the traditional financial world and decentralized finance are clarified. Moreover, I would like the reflections to continue at the national level for European regulation.

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

It will be necessary to be vigilant in its implementation. I think centralized players need to be fixed, especially when you see what happened with FTX. They should be regulated because they have citizens’ assets and they should not do anything with them. Here, MiCa brings a number of advances on how to control these actors. On the other hand, I don’t take too kindly to MiCa’s restrictions on stablecoins. There is a risk to European sovereignty. Moreover, more open, flexible regulation is needed, these texts should allow for innovation. Similarly, TFR regulations (intended to fight money laundering, editor’s note) impose overly restrictive rules on how you can hold your cryptos in crypto wallets. This goes to the heart of the crypto project which is financial freedom. Regulation in Europe will also be at the center of the second edition of Brussels Blockchain Week in June 2023.

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