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 to 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 action”, especially in Belgium. Christophe De Beukelaer did not want 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 fundamental principles. However, I am not a bitcoin maximalist, I think that bitcoin has a special role, but this is also the case for other cryptocurrencies. From 2020 I wanted to lead 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 action by choosing to receive my salary in bitcoin for one year in 2022.
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 to bitcoin. It wasn’t an economic act, it was political, I converted my salary and I kept it on a ledger key. Today, therefore, I have a savings in bitcoin.
2022 has been a particularly turbulent year, with bitcoin losing more than 70% of its value. According to Belgian media The echohave you lost 27,000 euros in 2022, i.e. 37.5% of your annual salary.
I do not confirm this figure. I leveled 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 trade, but if I calculate in bitcoin, then it is not a bad trade. Today, we always take the euro or the dollar as a reference to look at our salary, but are we sure about 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 need to be asked, and which the rise of crypto allows us to ask. If I had wanted to do an economic act, I would probably have done it differently, here it was a political act. I keep this saving for the long term because I also believe in the recovery of this ecosystem. Receiving my salary in bitcoin for a year has moved the lines.
Exactly what has changed in Belgium?
In Belgium, I put my credibility on the line. I discussed a lot with the Belgian members of parliament, to whom I was able to explain the basics, it takes time. There is no major movement, but the ideas are gaining ground. I understand that the major Belgian parties have launched deliberations 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 on foreign players also coming to Belgium, as Binance or Crypto.com have done for example in France.
What ideas would you defend with this project?
I have 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 especially 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 rise of central bank digital currencies and the limitation 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 limited resources, the creation of the euro, as central banks have done for 30 years, amounts to encouraging the players to produce and consume ever more. This is where bitcoin, as a mathematical currency on which human emotions have no influence, is interesting. Cryptocurrencies can be added to other forms of money, bitcoin can be a store of value if we decide. Finally, I believe that we must fight against economic lack of culture. From school, you need concrete courses in financial management and budgeting. Financial knowledge is an important lever for social liberation.
Do you think bitcoin should become legal tender in European countries, 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 that requiring all businesses to accept payment in crypto is the best idea. I believe that in the long term we are headed for a world of great currency competition. Monopoly currency, it will be over. So how will it be organized by then? I don’t know, but there are fundamental things that make us feel like this is where we’re going.
You have decided to receive your salary in euros this year. Why not renew the experience?
It was a political act and not an economic act. I will continue to put some of my savings into crypto, but it is no longer public business, the political action was public and ended on December 31st.
Are you preparing other strong political actions?
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 want to 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 the deliberations to continue at national level on European regulation.
Precisely, what do you think about the European MiCa regulation, which should come into force in 2024 in Europe?
It will be necessary to be aware of its use. I think centralized players need to be regulated, especially when you see what happened with FTX. They must be regulated because they have the citizens’ assets and they must not do anything with them. Here, MiCa brings a number of advances on how to control these actors. On the other hand, I do not take MiCa’s restrictions regarding stablecoins very well. There is a risk to European sovereignty. Furthermore, there is a need for more open and more flexible regulation, these texts must allow innovation. Similarly, the TFR rules (which aim to combat money laundering, ed. note) impose far too restrictive rules on how you can keep your cryptos on crypto-wallets. This touches the core 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.