Swiss Socialist Party parliamentarian Jean Christophe Schwaab submitted a request to the Swiss National Council seeking a report on Bitcoin, particularly on the digital currency’s potential and risks.
Schwaab said Bitcoin’s ability to possibly facilitate money laundering is a concern. Switzerland, of course, is world famous for its banking industry.
Schwaab acknowledged, too, that Bitcoin could be a good thing for Switzerland, but his concerns seemed to stem primarily from a piece of reporting in which a Swiss journalist was able to buy drugs with Bitcoin from the Silk Road.
He said he felt that some kind of state intervention was necessary, though he was not sure exactly what could be done. The report, therefore, would be to explore the topic and perhaps define some problems. Afterward, any necessary measures could be made.
Bitcoin is naturally something that would be on Schwaab’s radar, as part of his focus is internet and data protection. He has also worked as a bankers’ unionist and sits on the board of the Swiss Employees’ Association.
However, he thinks the vast majority of Swiss lawmakers and politicians are completely unaware that such a digital currency exists. Bitcoin, according to him, is thus far the province of “geeks, criminals and special police units.”
The CEO of Swiss mining hardware maker Bitmine disagrees. “Bitcoin is an emerging technology that was born from geeks but will eventually become part of everybody’s life as soon as it evolves into a more well known and user-friendly technology,” said Giorgio Massarotto.
But scary stories about drug deals online are carrying the Bitcoin narrative, and lawmakers’ guards go up well before they have a chance to explore the currency’s benefits.
Nevertheless, Massarotto applauds the report’s request because it offers politicians a chance to see beyond the scandalous narrative, and because “Switzerland’s approach to monetary regulation has historically been very liberal,” he said.
Bitcoin would not be Switzerland’s first experience with an alternative currency. Already, WIR Bank issues a currency called the WIR frank, which allows companies to make transactions in Swiss francs without having large amounts of cash on hand.
Elsewhere in Europe, governments in the UK, German and Belgium have begun investigations into digital currencies.