© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: 1,000-Swiss-franc banknotes lie in a box at a Swiss bank in Zurich, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo
(Reuters) – Swiss citizens will get the chance to try to ensure their economy never becomes cashless, a pressure group said, after collecting enough signatures by Monday to trigger a popular vote on the issue.
The FBS (Free Switzerland Movement) says cash is playing a shrinking role in many economies, as electronic payments become the default for transactions in increasingly digitised societies, making it easier for the state to monitor its citizens’ actions.
It wants a clause added to Switzerland’s currency law, which governs how the central bank and government manage the money supply, stipulating that a “sufficient quantity” of banknotes or coins must always remain in circulation.
There is no evidence of moves towards a cashless society by Swiss authorities.
FBS said it had garnered over 111,000 signatures in support of the measure, above the 100,000 needed to trigger a popular vote. Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, the proposal would become law if approved by voters, though government and parliament would decide how that law was implemented.
“It is clear that … getting rid of cash not only touches on issues of transparency, simplicity or security … but also carries a huge danger of totalitarian surveillance,” FBS president Richard Koller said on the group’s website.
He also views Switzerland as a European standard-bearer for the defence of cash, as pushing through such guarantees in the European Union would entail the “almost impossible” process of securing approval from all 27 member states.
Accelerated by the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, the trend towards increased cashless payments was evident as far back as 2017, when an Ipsos study found more than a third of Europeans and Americans would happily go without cash and 20% pretty much did so already.