Another local currency launches in Basque country

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While the European project threatens to collapse at any moment, many Europeans are getting busy making the next economy.

BitCoin has made the biggest noise since the Cypriot banking system went sideways, but in reality, the most popular alternative is local currencies. Britain’s Transition Towns projects all feature local currencies, and the Chiemgauer in Germany has been going strong.

Today, you can add a brand new local currency to that list from the Basque Country in northern Spain. The group BilboDiru from the city of Bilbao is launching a new currency with the intention of transforming the economy of the province of Biscay (or Vizcaya or Bizkaia in Spanish and Basque, respectively) into something more sustainable, ecologically sound, and broadly prosperous.

I had the pleasure of exchanging insights with the group’s founders, and these are the insights they gave me on their currency project.

This is the English translation of our interview – the original communications are listed below in Spanish. The author regrets that his Basque language skills are far too weak for professional usage.

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What were the roots of your decision to launch a local currency?

The BilboDiru project came out of the social movement called Desazkundea, or decrecimento in Spanish – Degrowth in English. Desazkundea is a movement that advocates for a new economic model around the concept of steady steady economics. Degrowth is the only the way to arrive at an ecological footprint that = 1, meaning an economic system that is sustainable on the planet.

The BilboDiru project is the result of a working group that studied the value of local currencies in this new economic context, and its goal is to create an alternative.

Do you have examples of local currencies that inspired you, such as the Brixton Pound or the Chiemgauer in Germany?

We studied several examples that found success throughout Europe and America. In our case, the BilboDiru is a mix of the Chiemgauer and the Sol Violette from Toulouse, France.

To what degree has the crisis in Europe moved you to create this currency?

The crisis has without a doubt been responsible for the rise of alternatives in recent days, as a criticism of neoliberal capitalism which shown itself to be clearly defective. It’s not clear to what degree [this was an inspiration] but certainly some.

Do you have a specific plan for the future in mind? For example, do you have a target for a certain percentage of transactions in the Basque Country to be conducted in local currency?

 In theory, our currency is intended for use solely inside the province of Bizkaia, one of the seven provinces of Euskal Herria (the Basque homeland). We want the currency to be truly local, so it is not our desire to have its use spread out indefinitely.

As far as how much of the economy we would like transacted in the currency, we would like the most possible. For this, we know that the key is in suppliers. But the most important thing is that the economy created out of the new currency be different than the traditional economy. We want the new economy to be ecologically sound, socially responsible and free. The quality is more important than the quantity.

Do you see this currency as part of the larger political movement around Basque sovereignty? Is this movement similar or different from political movements in the 20th century?

No, the local currency is not intended as part of a political movement toward Basque independence. The goal is to change the economic model, protecting the local economy and gaining sovereignty through money.

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If you remain interested – the BilboDiru project is now conducting a poll to choose the name of the currency. Potential names are “hazi” meaning “seed” in Basque, “ekhi” the ancient Basque word for “sun,” and many other symbolic names. As the Basques have been occupying their land since before the Romans and Greeks, and with their historic reputation as commercial pioneers, one can look for many more innovations to come from this beuatiful and mysterious land where the mountains meet the sea, and future meets past.

 

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Original text from the interview in Spanish:

¿Cuáles fueron las raíces de su decisión de lanzar una moneda local?

El proyecto BilboDiru surgió en el seno de un movimiento social llamado Desazkundea (decrecimiento en castellano). Desazkundea es un movimiento que aboga por un nuevo modelo económico en torno al concepto de la economía de estado estacionario, el decrecimiento es el único camino para llegar a la huella ecológica = 1, que indicaría que el sistema económico es sostenible en el planeta.

El proyecto BilboDiru es el resultado de un grupo de trabajo que ha estudiado el valor de las monedas locales en este nuevo contexto económico, y el objetivo es generar una alternativa.

¿Tienes modelos, por ejemplo, el Brixton pound o el Chiemgauer en Alemania?

En efecto, hemos estudiado los diferentes modelos de monedas locales que han tenido éxito en Europa y en América. En nuestro caso, BilboDiru es una mezcla entre el Chiemgauer y el Sol Violette (Toulouse, Francia).

¿A qué grado tiene la crisis en Europa te inspiró para hacer una nueva moneda?

La crisis ha fomentado sin duda el surgimiento de alternativas, desde una crítica al monelo capitalista neoliberal, que ha demostrado ser claramente defectuoso. No sé hasta qué nivel, pero seguro que ha tenido algo que ver.

¿Tienes algún plan para el futuro en mente? ¿Por ejemplo, están esperando un cierto porcentaje de la economía en Euskal Herria a ser tramitado en moneda local?

En principio nuestro proyecto de moneda local tiene como objetivo quedarse dentro de Bizkaia (una de las siete provincias de Euskal Herria). Queremos que sea una moneda realmente local, y por lo tanto no queremos que extienda indefinidamente.

Con respecto al nivel de economía, nos gustaría llegar al máximo posible. Para eso sabemos que la clave está en los proveedores. Pero lo más importante es que la economía que se genere con la nueva moneda sea diferente a la economía tradicional. Queremos que la nueva economía sea ecológica, solidaria, libre… La calidad es más importante que la cantidad.

¿Ves la moneda local como parte del movimiento político más grande de Euskal Herria para la soberanía política? ¿Es este similar o diferente de los movimientos políticos en el siglo XX?

No, el objetivo de la moneda local no tiene como objetivo ser un elemento hacia la independencia de Euskal Herria. El objetivo es cambiar el modelo económico, protegiendo la economía local, y recuperando la soberanía sobre el dinero.

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