The Italian Banking Association (ABI) has affirmed its support for the implementation of the European sovereign digital currency by starting pilot studies on the digital euro project.
As per the announcement, the association is working with its R&D department, ABI Lab and the country’s commercial banks to develop an experimental digital euro.
According to reports, ABI's digital euro research will focus on two main areas - technical feasibility analysis and central bank digital currency programmability, to distinguish it from existing electronic payment methods.
The Italian corporate network company SIA will assist the consortium in the technical feasibility studies. SIA is also a partner of Project Spunta, ABI's blockchain-based interbank settlement layer.
Although the project is focusing on the experimental digital euro, there are no signs of any involvement by Italy's central bank. On the contrary, other collaborators (such as digital services outfit Reply and consulting giant PwC) are designated as pilot research partners.
For ABI, the program is part of an effort to prepare Italian banks for a future that may include a digital euro. ABI spokesperson commented on the goals and objectives of the project:
"The aim of the initiative is to proactively contribute to public debate and support banks operating in Italy as they prepare for the future. It doesn’t aim to anticipate the [European Central Bank] decision on the adoption of a digital currency but rather to explore possible use cases and reflect on the implications of its possible implementation beforehand."
As early as last December, an ECB official stated that the bank's consideration of using a digital euro may last until 2021. Indeed, previous reports pointed out that there are at least five years away from the creation of a regional central bank digital currency.
The central bank is already running several test protocols for its experimental digital euro in France. Ethereum developer ConsenSys is one of the blockchain companies that is testing the digital euro in cooperation with partners on behalf of French banks.