MP Christophe De Beukelaer paid bitcoin returns to the euro for a year

To “move the lines”, Christophe De Beukelaer became the first MP in the world to “receive” his salary in Bitcoin in 2022. But he won’t repeat that experience this year.

Belgian MP for the Brussels-Capital Region Christophe De Beukelaer converted his salary to Bitcoin throughout 2022 despite severe disruptions in the crypto ecosystem. On BFM Crypto, the only MEP paid in Bitcoin returned to the aftermath of this “political act”, specifically in Belgium. Christophe De Beukelaer did not want to repeat the experience this year but intends to fight for the development of the crypto ecosystem in Belgium and internationally.

When did you discover Bitcoin?

Christophe DeBeukelaer: It was initially considered a speculative object in 2017. Then people opened me up to the promise of Bitcoin, to its fundamentals. However, I am not a bitcoin maximalist, I think that bitcoin has a special role, but the same applies to other cryptocurrencies. From 2020 I wanted to carry the bitcoin project politically by interviewing the Belgian government and organizing various conferences. But I was facing a wall. So I decided to take a strong political act by deciding to receive my salary in Bitcoin for a year in 2022.

The Belgian Parliament paid you in Bitcoin?

I submitted this request but it was denied. I expected that (laughs). As a result, I received my salary in euros and sent it to a Belgian trading platform at the end of the month to be converted into bitcoin. It wasn’t a financial act, it was political, I converted my salary and kept it on a ledger key. So today I have savings in Bitcoin.

2022 was a particularly turbulent year, with Bitcoin losing more than 70% of its value. According to Belgian media The echoyou lost 27,000 euros in 2022, i.e. 37.5% of your annual salary.

I do not confirm this number. I smoothed out my investment at the end of each month and reduced my risk. If I calculate in euros we can say that I got a bad deal, but if I calculate in bitcoin then it’s not a bad deal. Nowadays we always take the euro or the dollar as a reference to look at our salary, but are we so sure about the stability of the euro and the dollar? For the same amount of gold you need 6.6 times more euros today 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 it was a political act. I’m keeping those savings over the long term because I also believe in the recovery of this ecosystem. After receiving my salary in bitcoin for a year, the lines have shifted.

What exactly has changed in Belgium?

In Belgium I put my credibility at risk, I discussed a lot with the Belgian MEPs, to whom I was able to explain the basics, that takes time. There is no big movement, but ideas are gaining ground. I understand that the major Belgian parties have had reflections on cryptocurrencies: how can we shape them, should we be for or against?… This has put Brussels and Belgium on the cryptocurrency map. I am also working on bringing foreign players to Belgium, like Binance or Crypto.com did in France.

What ideas did you want to defend with this project?

I’ve often been portrayed as a crypto MP. I would like to become 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 plays a role in the economy and I believe that cryptos and bitcoin can improve the financial world. The first idea is financial freedom. I am very concerned about the advent of central bank digital currencies and the confinement of cash. It is a dangerous tool for more authoritarian powers. An uncensorable currency is essential to the survival of our democracies. The second idea is to fight against our growth model. I’m a pragmatic ecologist. In a world of finite resources, creating the euro, as central banks have been doing for 30 years, means encouraging actors to produce and consume more and more. Here Bitcoin is interesting as a mathematical currency over which human emotions have no influence. Cryptocurrencies can be added to other forms of money, Bitcoin can be a store of value if we choose to. Finally, I think we have to fight against the financial lack of culture. The school needs concrete courses in financial management and budgeting. Financial knowledge is an important lever for social emancipation.

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

I don’t think it should be legal tender overnight. If we allow players to thrive, if we don’t put up barriers between banks and the crypto sector, I think adoption will increase organically. I think mentalities are not ready for that yet, but there will always be more goods and services that we can pay for in bitcoin and crypto. But I’m not sure if requiring all businesses to accept payments in crypto is the best idea. I think that in the long term we are heading towards a world with great currency competition. Monopoly currency, it will be over. How will it be organized until then? I don’t know, but there are fundamentals that make us feel like we need to go here.

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

It was a political act, not a financial one. I will continue to invest some of my savings in crypto, but this is no longer a matter for 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 crypto-related projects that should matter, 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, I will make sure that the bridges between the traditional finance world and the decentralized finance world are cleared. In addition, I hope that the considerations at national level on European regulation will continue.

What do you think of the European MiCa regulation, which is scheduled to come into force in Europe in 2024?

It will be necessary to be vigilant when using it. I think centralized players need to be regulated, especially considering what happened with FTX. They need to be regulated because they hold citizens’ wealth and are not allowed to do anything with it. Here, MiCa brings a number of advances in controlling these actors. On the other hand, I don’t take MiCa’s limitations very well when it comes to stablecoins. There is a risk to European sovereignty. In addition, more open, flexible regulation is required, and these texts must allow for innovation. Likewise, the TFR regulations (which aim to combat money laundering, ed.) impose overly restrictive rules on how to store your cryptos in crypto wallets. This touches on the heart of the crypto project, which is financial freedom. Regulation in Europe will also be the focus of the second edition of Brussels Blockchain Week in June 2023.

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