February 23, 2024

European Central Bank's Blistering Critique: Bitcoin Has Failed Despite US Spot ETFs

The European Central Bank (ECB) maintains its stance on bitcoin, dismissing the recent approval of spot ETFs for the cryptocurrency as inconsequential to its fundamental flaws as a viable means of payment or investment.

In a scathing assessment titled "ETF approval for Bitcoin – the naked emperor’s new clothes", posted on the ECB Blog on February 22, 2024, ECB officials Ulrich Bindseil and Jürgen Schaaf reiterated their position on bitcoin. They assert that despite the recent green light from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for spot exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on bitcoin, the cryptocurrency has failed to live up to its promise as a global decentralized digital currency.

The ECB's statement encapsulates the sentiment of the blog post, emphasizing that bitcoin has not evolved into the decentralized currency it aimed to be. Instead, it has become a playground for fraud and manipulation. The approval of ETFs, they argue, does not alter bitcoin's inherent issues of being expensive, slow, and impractical for everyday transactions.

Bindseil and Schaaf criticize bitcoin for its lack of intrinsic value, as it doesn't generate cash flow, dividends, or societal benefits. They also highlight the environmental damage caused by Bitcoin mining, which relies on energy-intensive proof-of-work mechanisms.

Despite the optimism surrounding the SEC's approval of spot bitcoin ETFs, the ECB officials maintain that bitcoin's true value remains zero. They dismiss recent price rallies as mere speculative bubbles, warning of the potential for further boom-bust cycles that could harm both the environment and less sophisticated investors.

The blog post also addresses bitcoin's association with illicit activities, citing concerns about money laundering, terrorism financing, and ransomware attacks. The officials critique the regulatory approaches in Europe and the US, arguing that Bitcoin's decentralized nature has hindered effective oversight.

Furthermore, the authors highlight the irony of bitcoin's reliance on traditional financial intermediaries like ETFs to attract investors, underscoring its speculative nature.

In conclusion, the ECB asserts that bitcoin's price is not indicative of its sustainability, emphasizing the absence of economic fundamentals to support its valuation. They caution against relying on speculative bubbles, warning of the potential social and economic damage when they burst.

The Bitcoin community's response

The ECB's stance on bitcoin is further contextualized by their own words from 2012, revealing an underlying fear of a monetary revolution. In a statement from that year, the ECB expressed concerns about Bitcoin potentially tarnishing the reputation of central banks. They stated:

“Bitcoin could have a negative impact on the reputation of central banks, assuming the use of such systems grows and in the event that an incident attracts the press, since the public may perceive the incident as being caused by a CB not doing its job properly.”

This historical perspective sheds light on the ECB's hostility towards bitcoin, as they grapple with the implications of decentralized currencies on their traditional role in monetary policy and regulation.

The ECB's critique has ignited varied responses within the Bitcoin community. Some proponents of Bitcoin point out the significance of past statements, noting that the ECB's previous proclamation of "Bitcoin's last stand" coincided with a bitcoin price bottom around $16,000, suggesting resilience in the face of skepticism.


Moreover, while bitcoin faces scrutiny, traditional fiat currencies like the euro have experienced significant depreciation. Over less than 24 years, the euro has lost over 43% of its value, indicating a decline in purchasing power. Presently, a euro can only buy 57% of what it could in the past, translating to a 1.76-fold increase in prices since the inception of the euro. These figures underscore the ongoing debate regarding the stability and long-term viability of both traditional and alternative financial systems.

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