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EU launches Blockchain Observatory and Forum

Supported by the European Parliament, the European Commission launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum earlier this year. The Observatory and Forum is a pilot project that will highlight key developments in blockchain technology with the intention of promoting and reinforcing the involvement of European actors in the international sphere of blockchain activities.

Through the EU’s research programmes, FP7 and Horizon 2020, the EC has been funding blockchain projects since 2013 and will fund projects that could draw on blockchain technologies up the to sum of 340 million euros. European entrepreneurs are already offering blockchain-based solutions and are major players in this sector across the world.

The EU expects the Observatory and Forum to play an active role in helping Europe to make the most of the new opportunities offered by the blockchain’s socioeconomic potential. It aims to do so by gathering information, monitoring and analyzing trends, addressing challenges and pushing the boundaries of developments in the blockchain that will encourage economic growth and engender social benefits. In particular, it will work to enable cross border cooperation, gathering Europe’s top experts to promote an open forum to discuss and develop new ideas. It intends to engage technology experts, innovators, industry stakeholders, public and regulatory authorities, and citizens to work together to make the most of these exciting new opportunities.

A policy priority for the EC, fintech will be playing a major role in helping to achieve the objectives of the development of the single market, Banking Union, Capital Market Union and retail financial services. Quoted in the EC’s official press release, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Ivanova Gabriel, said the project would become “one of the world’s most comprehensive repositories of blockchain experience and expertise.”

While its wish to become actively involved in the world of the blockchain is clear, the EU’s official response to cryptocurrencies as one aspect of the use of blockchain technology is far more cautious, with an agreement made in December of 2017 to tighten up the rules on transparency in cryptocurrency transactions in order to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. The intention, once the agreement has been enacted into law and formally adopted by EU states, is to ensure that cryptocurrency exchange platforms and “wallet” providers identify their users.