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Austrians are so worried their colorful cash might die out they’re trying to enshrine its use as a constitutional right



Europeans are determined to protect their beloved bank notes, in fact they’re moving to have its future use legally secured.

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer said last week that the public are growing increasingly concerned about restrictions they face when trying to pay with cash.

“Cash plays an important role in our everyday lives,” Nehammer wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday. “And that is why I, as Chancellor of this republic, am committed to ensuring that cash is constitutionally protected as a means of payment.”

Nehammer said that nearly €47 billion ($51 billion) is withdrawn from ATMs annually in Austria alone, noting the importance of hard currency for the country’s 9.1 million people.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to decide freely how and with what he wants to pay,” Nehammer said, according to Associated Press. “That can be by card, by transfer, perhaps in future also with the digital euro, but also with cash. This freedom to choose must and will remain.”

Under Nehammer’s plan, the right to cash will be enshrined in the constitution and the national bank will have to hold enough euros to supply Austrians.

Finance Minister Magnus Brunner has reportedly been tasked with leading the effort in the coming months. 

Cash is king

The debate surrounding the protection of physical money in Austria has been raging for a number of years—the country’s right-wing Freedom Party being among the most vocal supporters of hard currency.

The political party, which is widely popular in Austria, has slammed any restrictions on cash—including initiatives to build a digital euro currency.

In 2021, the country was also against a proposed limit on cash-based euro transactions, a policy suggested by the European Commission. 

The use of credit cards and other digital tools have recently gained traction in Europe and other parts of the world for their ease of use. 

But that’s not the case in Austria, where cash is associated with freedom and independence. 

Roughly 54% of Austrians use cash to pay for groceries while only 37% of them use cards, according to a survey by the OGM research institute earlier this year. Nehammer pointed out that 67% of payments made under €20 ($22) were done in cash.

The country also has among the highest density of ATMs in Europe, with one available every 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles) on average, the country’s central bank also found.

Commercial establishments like restaurants in Austria still rely heavily on physical currency, Reuters reports, and cash hoarding during times of crisis is still common practice. 

Although Nehammer’s move to constitutionally protect cash ultimately backs a Freedom Party policy, he was criticized by the party’s leader for stealing ideas for “political survival” as the national election is due next year. 

Representatives at Nehammer’s office did not immediately return Fortune‘s request for comment.

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