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European Commission Officials Target Cryptocurrency And Blockchain With Policies And Optimism




A pair of speeches from members of the European Commission (EC) touched on the development of blockchain technology and how cryptocurrencies fit into international economic policies.

In a speech made before attendants of the invitation-only Digital-Life-Design (DLD) conference in Munich, on January 22, 2018, commissioner of the EC's Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said "think blockchain" as she ascertained how regulation and taxation should be applied when asking, "How do we make sure that technology serves us, helps [to solve] our problems and reduce our economic and societal divides?"

Gabriel's speech touched on notes of promoting equality, unification, and a cooperative investment in "technologies of the future ... to make sure that Europe has access to the latest know-how and can take part in the next round of technological development and competition at the global level."

She also said that she is optimistic about technology solving challenges: "There are promising examples: we employ blockchain technology to secure elections."

On the day following Gabriel's remarks at DLD, vice president of the EC's Euro and Social Dialogue Project Valdis Dombrovskis spoke at a Brussels press conference for ECOFIN, a body comprised of finance ministers from all member states of the European Union (EU) that is responsible for EU policies concerning taxes and financial service regulation. Cryptocurrency was among the topics that he discussed:

"In terms of financial services legislation: I made some suggestions on how the EU should approach cryptocurrencies. Make no mistake: We want Europe to embrace the opportunities of blockchain, the technology underlying cryptocurrencies. But to do so, we must be vigilant and prevent cryptocurrencies from becoming a token for unlawful behaviour."

Dombrovskis went on to relate that, in December, he sent a letter to the European Supervisory Authorities (ESA) requesting that they "update their warnings from a financial stability and investor protection perspective," regarding the prevention of the illicit use of cryptocurrencies and tokens. He expects the update to come "shortly."

Earlier last year, the ESA issued a report that questioned the security infrastructure of blockchain-based systems, citing regulatory setbacks.

Dombrovskis also affirmed that new AML rules agreed upon in December, "will put cryptocurrency exchanges and custodial wallet providers within the scope of money laundering supervision," suggesting that adopting those rules will instill a layer of regulatory oversight in the marketplace. "That means less anonymity and more traceability, through better customer identification, and strong due diligence," said Dombrovskis.

In conclusion, Dombrovskis encouraged member states of the EU to rapidly transition to the new AML framework and reiterated a desire to unify the research efforts of public agencies and private businesses on a macroscopic scale.

"Cryptocurrencies may have ramifications for many other areas, including for central banks. That's why I intend to bring together key authorities and the private sector in a high level roundtable very shortly to assess the longer term situation beyond the current market trends."

Jeremy Nation

Jeremy Nation is a writer living in Los Angeles with interests in technology, human rights, and cuisine.

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