On the occasion of a G20 Finance meeting on Monday 19 February in Buenos Aires, Paris and Berlin are calling for a major debate on the consequences for the world economy of crypto-currencies, which have become a rush for digital gold. The price of bitcoin, which does not belong to any bank, went from a few thousand dollars in 2009, when it was created, to more than 10 000 dollars today, at the risk of worrying the authorities.

If the crypto-currencies worry the money-makers of the whole world - because they jostle the rules of the finance - it is that the inventor of Bitcoin has succeeded his bet. The mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto just wanted to create a computer currency that escapes the control of banks and states.

While the currencies we currently know are currencies that are issued by central banks that decide for example to print more money or not, bitcoin programs this mathematically. "In a way, the algorithm provides certainty about monetary policy, which states do not. Indeed, it removes some sovereignty of the states on the currency, says Ricardo Perez Marco, director of research at the CNRS and bitcoin expert. Historically states have always created their own currency, but the difference is that beyond two centuries, gold was the international currency. Bitcoin is a bit like the electronic and modern form of gold. "

The algorithm that manages bitcoin is programmed for only 21 million units. For the financial authorities, it is not a currency. According to the Banque de France, this is only a digital asset, in particular because the law recognizes only the euro as currency in France.

"Its value is not based on anything concrete, on a good or services, but only on this computer program, says Nathalie Aufauvre, director general of financial stability at the Bank of France. [Bitcoin] depends only on the supply and demand on this asset, which makes it a very speculative asset and not a currency in the usual sense. "

For economist Philippe Herlin, it is not a state body that will decide whether bitcoin is a currency or not. "Indeed, in France little bitcoin is used to pay, since with the euro we have a stable currency, but we must know that there are many emerging countries in Africa and South America - who know inflation or exchange control - which begin to use more and more bitcoin to pay, explains this economist and author of the book Buy Bitcoin (Editions Eyrolles). They do not question whether it's approved by their central bank. "

Against hacking and theft, regulation?
The risk of losing all its stake, thanks to their very unstable value, is not the only danger of virtual currencies such as bitcoin, ether, ripple or litecoin. The theft and piracy of trading platforms, some of which are unreliable, are quite common. On this point, even the defenders of cryptocurrencies are for regulation. "Where the states have a role to play is that platforms that allow to buy bitcoins against euros and against dollars, they must be regulated, continues Philippe Herlin. This regulation already exists in Europe, and why not strengthen it to prevent people from being scammed by fake sites. "

Authorities also fear that cryptocurrencies favor the circulation of dirty money, hence the importance of an international approach. "We have regulatory issues on the conservation of these assets, and to make them assets that comply with the rules that we have established on the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, since the entire financial sector in the the world is now well controlled on these aspects, "says Nathalie Aufauvre of the World Bank. It is imperative that we come to subject these assets to the same type of regulation. "

Counterproductive regulation in New York
However, any regulation would go against the very principle of bitcoin. As proof, the New York example proved to be counterproductive. "In New York State, they did a regulatory test by establishing what they call the" bit license "and the companies that were based in New York went elsewhere, says Ricardo Perez Marco, a Bitcoin specialist in New York. CNRS. So when we do a regulation, we must ask what we want, what is the goal. "

Paris and Berlin want to regulate bitcoin and hope that the discussion will continue in March, at the next G20, and lead to a report in July.