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The right to pay anonymously has become part of an EU culture war


Karl Nehammer, Austria’s chancellor, announced plans to enshrine the right to pay with cash into the country’s constitution on Friday (August 4), as card contactless payments become more popular in Europe.

Nehammer proposed the amendment after the Austrian Freedom Party—a far-right party currently surging in the polls—accused the current government of conspiring to ban cash as a means of tracking its citizens. Nehammer is the leader of Austria’s conservative People’s Party, which rules in a coalition with the left-wing Green Party.

“In Austria alone, 47 billion euros are withdrawn from ATMs every year and on average every Austrian carries 102 euros in cash,” Nehammer wrote in a tweet (original in German). “That is why I… am committed to ensuring that cash is constitutionally protected as a means of payment.”

The plan would guarantee cash as a payment option, as well as instruct the Austrian Central Bank to secure a basic supply of paper currency. Nehammer has tasked Finance Minister Magnus Brunner to lead the effort, while collaborating with other government ministries and representatives from the private sector.

Is cash really in danger?

Earlier this week, Piers Corbyn—brother of former UK labor leader Jeremy Corbyn—made headlines for an act of civil disobedience: buying a pack of strawberries with cash at an automated grocery store.

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