deputy Christophe De Beukelaer paid for a year in bitcoin returns to the euro
To “move the lines”, Christophe De Beukelaer became the first deputy in the world to “receive” his salary in bitcoin 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 into bitcoin throughout 2022, despite severe disruptions in the crypto ecosystem. On BFM Crypto, the only MP paid in bitcoin returned to the consequences of this “political act”, particularly in Belgium. Christophe De Beukelaer did not wish 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 particular role but that is also the case for other cryptocurrencies. From 2020, I wanted to carry the bitcoin project politically, by questioning the Belgian government, and by organizing various conferences. But I was up against a wall. So I decided to take a strong political act, by choosing to receive my salary in bitcoin for one year in 2022.
The Belgian Parliament paid you in bitcoin?
I made this request, but it was denied. 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 bitcoin. It was not a financial act it was political, I converted my salary and I kept it on a ledger key. Today, I therefore have savings in bitcoin.
2022 has been a particularly turbulent year, with bitcoin losing more than 70% of its value. According to Belgian media The Echoyou 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 my risk. If I calculate in euros, we can say that I made a bad deal, but if I calculate in bitcoin, then it is 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? 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 must be asked and that the advent of crypto allows us to ask. If I had wanted to make a financial act, I would probably have done it differently, here it was a political act. I keep this savings for the long term, because I also believe in the recovery of this ecosystem. Having received my salary in bitcoin for a year has moved the lines.
Precisely, what has changed in Belgium?
In Belgium, I put my credibility at stake. I discussed a lot with the Belgian MPs to whom I was able to explain the fundamentals, it takes time. There is no major movement but the ideas are gaining ground. I understand that the major Belgian parties have launched 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 Crypto.com have done in France for example.
What ideas did you want to defend with this project?
I’ve often been portrayed as a crypto MP. Me, I want to be a member of fair finance. I think the financial world is unfair, with in particular 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 restriction of cash. It is a dangerous tool for more authoritarian powers. For the survival of our democracies, an uncensorable currency is important. The second idea is the fight against our growth model. I am a pragmatic ecologist. In a world with finite resources, creating the euro as central banks have been doing for 30 years amounts to encouraging players to produce and consume ever more. This is where bitcoin, as a mathematical currency over which human emotions have no hold, is interesting. 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 against financial lack of culture. From school, you need concrete courses in financial management and budgeting. Financial knowledge is a major 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 develop, if we don’t put barriers between banks and the crypto sector, I think adoption will grow organically. I think mentalities are not ready for this, 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 payment 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. So how will it be organized by then? I don’t know, but there are fundamentals that make us feel that this is where we need to 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 that is no longer the business of the general public, the political act was public and ended on December 31.
Are you preparing other strong political acts?
I’m working on a few crypto-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. Furthermore, I would like reflections to continue at national level on European regulation.
Precisely, what do you think of the European MiCa regulation, which should come into force in 2024 in Europe?
It will be necessary to be vigilant on its application. I think centralized players need to be regulated, especially when you see what happened with FTX. They must be regulated because they hold citizens’ assets and they must not do anything with them. Here, MiCa brings a series of advances on how to control these actors. On the other hand, I do not take very kindly to MiCa’s restrictions regarding stablecoins. There is a risk for European sovereignty. Moreover, more open, more flexible regulation is needed, these texts must allow innovation. Similarly, the TFR regulations (which aims to fight against money laundering, Editor’s note) impose overly restrictive rules on how you can keep your cryptos on crypto wallets. This goes to the heart of the crypto project which is financial freedom. Regulation in Europe will also be at the heart of the second edition of Brussels Blockchain Week in June 2023.