A board member of the European Central Bank has declared that the bank should prepare to issue a digital euro to complement banknotes, according to Reuters.

Major central banks around the world are studying digital versions of their currencies to address demand for electronic means of payment and fend off competition from private tokens such as Bitcoin and Facebook’s proposed Libra. A digital euro could help where citizens have abandoned cash, foreign forms of electronic money have taken over, or other means of payments have become unavailable, as stated in an ECB study cited by Reuters.

The ECB gave itself until the middle of 2021 to decide whether to go forward with the project, which is now open for public consultation. Digital euros would give holders a direct claim on the central bank, making them safer than any deposit at a commercial bank. Moreover, they could be transferred directly between users, whether online or in person via Bluetooth or pre-paid cards, rather than going through the banking system.