"We plan to refine the decisions related to the design (of a digital euro) by the beginning of 2023 and to develop a prototype in the following months", Fabio Panetta, member of the management board of the ECB, said Thursday, during a hearing before the European Parliament.

In July, the institution announced the launch of a phase of work with a view to introducing the digital euro within 5 years, the time to offer the "safest form of currency", that of a central bank, on its terms.

The exploratory phase of the project started in October, notably involving 30 professionals to provide their expertise from the point of view of the payments industry.

This phase will last two years, after which the examination of technological solutions will be carried out.

"The stakes here are high and we are in uncharted waters," Panetta admitted to MEPs.

Without being "rushed", the intention of the ECB is to "go fast".

The digital euro could be used to make transfers or to pay for purchases, online via a smartphone application, or using payment cards similar to the debit card.

Also, the design of a digital euro "will require considering not only today's payments landscape", where many tech giants like Apple and Google are already jostling, but also "the landscape of tomorrow" with "new players, new digital assets and new payment solutions," said the central banker.

However, to be successful, a digital euro must "be attractive to users by offering a means of payment that is inexpensive, efficient and available everywhere", summarized Mr. Panetta.

At the same time, this success will depend on "close alignment" of European authorities and institutions, according to the Italian.

Paris and Berlin had communicated jointly in this direction in July.

© 2021 AFP