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EU Parliament Member Praises Euro Stance on Blockchain, Digital Assets

EU Parliament Member Praises Euro Stance on Blockchain, Digital Assets

Eva Kaili, a member of the European Parliament, the body which exercises the legislative function of the EU, has been speaking out about cryptocurrency and the progressive stance of EU member states towards it.

Speaking at a Ripple event in London recently, Kaili, a former television news presenter who represents the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, was telling her audience how blockchain technology’s disruption of various sectors was beginning to be understood by many EU member states.

She was highlighting the contrast between the industry now and how it was a few years ago in the early stages of its development,  indicating that this was gradually leading to a more positive reaction from EU banks and financial institutions, primarily due to recent regulation.

According to her, another reason for blockchain not being resigned to becoming just another clever idea was the growing mainstream acceptance of the technology by leaders across the world. The stance by these over the past five years has changed noticeably as more and more digital currencies reach acceptance and blockchain becomes a feature of many huge institutions’ business plans.

A major focus of many of these institutions has centered around remittances and cross border payments, which have been clearly improved through blockchain technology. One example being Ripple, the hosts of the event, who maintain that their cross-border payments are becoming both quicker and cheaper as new tech is developed.

MEP Kaili has long been a blockchain and crypto advocate in the European Parliament. In November, she spoke exclusively to Bitcoin News about the Parliament’s release of EUR 700 million for startup projects promising “great solutions” with blockchain.

 

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Hamas Calls for Bitcoin to Combat Israeli Freeze of Millions of Dollars in Qatari Aid

gaza, hamas

The militant arm of Hamas in Gaza has made an appeal for Bitcoin funds after a decision by Israel to temporarily freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid to Palestine.

Hamas, the de-facto ruling authority of the Gaza Strip in Palestine is regarded by several countries, including the US and the EU, as a terrorist organization. Russia, Turkey, and China are among those major world powers who do not subscribe to the definition.

The official Telegram channel of Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, made the appeal for Bitcoin asking all lovers of the resistance and the supporters of our righteous cause to support the resistance financially using Bitcoin.

Hamas has been the voice of Gaza since taking power from the Palestinian Nationalist political party Fatah in 2007 after a military conflict, although the Gaza Strip is now blockaded by both Israel and Egypt. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid – including USD 15 million a month to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants – has heightened the current tension between Gaza and Israel. Abu Obeida’s latest message hinted at the request for funds:

“The Zionist enemy is fighting the resistance by trying to cut its support by all means, but the resistance lovers in all the world are fighting these Zionist attempts and are seeking to find all possible support for the resistance.”

A recent congressional hearing in the US confirmed that in general, fiat currencies are the preferred choice of funding for terrorist activities or arms and that the success of fundraising for such groups through cryptocurrencies has been limited.

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Romanian Crypto Nest Eggs Decimated by New 10% Tax

Romanian Crypto Nest Eggs Decimated by New 10% Tax

Romania, Europe’s third-poorest nation (GDP per capita), has amended its taxation rules in order to accommodate those taxpayers with cryptocurrency earnings, now setting the rate at 10%.

Income for cryptocurrencies is now regarded by the taxation authorities in Romania as “income from other sources” and are therefore taxable. It is a move very much in line with many other countries across Europe who have been re-examining their tax laws as they apply to cryptocurrency earnings.

According to a local daily Ziarul Financiar, who quoted tax consultant Adrian Benta, this means that only gains will be taxed as opposed to revenues. Gains from transactions below RON 200 (Romanian ron worth USD 50) won’t be taxable under the new laws, but any earnings above RON 600 (USD 150) per annum will be liable for the 10% tariff. Benta suggested that the new rate was fair:

“Before this, we had a more cumbersome procedure in which one had to register as freelancer if he was trading repeatedly. It is now treated as an extraordinary income from other sources.”

Under EU leadership, cryptocurrencies are still closely monitored by the Romanian authorities as all jurisdictions in Europe continue to regulate the industry. In the hope to further encourage cryptocurrency adoption throughout Romania, the country’s top exchange Coinflux added Ripple to its trading platform last year by popular demand from clients.

Coinflux facilitates users in trading across cryptocurrencies and also with fiat currencies like Leu or RON.

 

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Dutch Authorities to Curb Crypto Trading Anonymity

Dutch Authorities to Curb Crypto Trading Anonymity

The Netherlands Authority for Financial Markets (AFM) and the central bank, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), are making recommendations to put an end to anonymous buying and selling of cryptocurrencies in the Netherlands.

Under proposed new rules, all crypto exchanges and wallet providers would be required to apply for a special license to operate, with Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra pushing forward the new changes.

Some feel that this may be an “after the horse has bolted” scenario given what has been regarded as a largely uncontrolled crypto market in the country over the 18 months; a period where first-time investors have risked losses due to inexperienced and occasion fraud events. Also, given that many investors have withdrawn from the market due to dip in cryptocurrency values, some exchanges think this has a come a bit too late.

However, figures do illustrate that the industry has remained vulnerable, with Dutch police’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) reporting digital-relegated fraud rising since the beginning of last year from an average of 300 to nearly 5,000 a year.

It is possible the Dutch are simply responding to last year’s new AML directive introduced by member states of the EU which stipulates that cryptocurrency trading platforms follow the same AML laws as traditional financial institutions. Under these laws, the 27 nations of the EU are also required exchanges to keep full records of transactions and report those which are felt to be in any way dubious.

 

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Bitcoin ETF Approval Would Give EU Legislators More Confidence Over Crypto

In a change of stance on cryptocurrency adoption by EU legislators, who until now have been mainly fence-sitting on the subject, are indicating that ETF acceptances may create more positive interest towards easing regulation.

European legislators have recently stated that a Bitcoin ETF green light by the SEC could ease the current pressure felt by cryptocurrencies across Europe.

A recent report by the EU’s financial advisory group suggested that there was a continued threat to investors trading in cryptocurrencies arguing that, “These issues are not unique to crypto assets trading platforms; they may be exacerbated in the case of crypto-assets because of their high price volatility and often low liquidity.”

In an attempt to regulate cryptocurrencies and provide more safeguards, EU legislators are increasingly looking to organizations such as Gemini who have taken to ETF, despite their own problems in getting them recognized by the SEC, due to the body’s continual reluctance to endorse cryptocurrencies. Gemini’s joint CEO Cameron Winklevoss commented about their own problems with regulation:

“We understand the commission’s concerns. We’ve heard them loud and clear and they are basically calling for more market surveillance and protections in the marketplace to avoid, prevent against manipulative behaviour and stuff like that. So, Gemini has built a market surveillance team.”

CSO of CoinShares, Meltem Demirors, has a more negative approach to the prospect of Bitcoin ETFs being accepted by the SEC due to the current political stalemate in Washington, arguing:

“….in this current sort of stalemate where you have the Democratic House, and the Republican Senate, you see some clashing, there are very different views on financial innovation and what should happen, but I think right now there is no upside to approving an ETF.”

The Winklevoss Brothers have called for the introduction of a Virtual Commodity Association, a self-regulatory organization for the cryptocurrency industry in the United States, similar to the Japanese Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA).

The JVCEA was founded on April 2018 when 16 crypto exchanges joined hands with the ultimate aim of providing self-regulatory standards for the industry-wide investors. Later in October, it was officially given self-regulatory status by Japan’s financial regulator to supervise the crypto sector.

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Kraken’s Law Enforcement Requests Tripled Last Year

Kraken's Law Enforcement Requests Tripped Last Year

US-based cryptocurrency exchange Kraken reported that the number of law enforcement requests it received in 2018 was three times that of 2017.

The infographic data shared by the exchange cites a total of 475 such requests last year, with a significant majority (315) coming from the US government despite the exchange also operating in Canada, the European Union, and Japan.

The Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was responsible for the largest number of US government requests with a total of 91, followed by 67 subpoenas issued by the FBI, and 40 information requests from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Kraken wrote on Twitter, ”You can see why so many businesses choose to block US users,” noting that the costs of dealing with such law enforcement requests are ”quickly becoming a barrier to entry.”

Peek at our Compliance team’s 2018 Transparency Report. You can see why many businesses choose to block US users. Cost of handling subpoenas (regardless of licenses) is quickly becoming a barrier to entry. Inquiries up 3x YoY. pic.twitter.com/YbyLEqhOUf

— Kraken Exchange (@krakenfx) January 5, 2019

While the US Securities and Exchange commision (SEC) made its fair share of headlines last year after cracking down on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and on cryptocurrency generally, Kraken’s data shows that there are at least 11 different government agencies directly involved with governing the industry.

The UK was responsible for the second largest number of requests to Kraken, totaling 61, followed by Denmark with 34. Kraken did not share whether the number of requests from law enforcement was at all correlated with the levels of use of the cryptocurrency exchange in each of the countries.

 

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Italy Hires 30 Experts to Man New Blockchain Task Force

After signing a declaration with six other EU states this month to integrate blockchain into European economies, the Italian Government has taken a bold step further by manning its new blockchain advisory board with 30 experts.

All the major board members come from the industry: Angiolini Giorgio, head of marketing portfolio at a telecom firm Italtel and also a member of UN INFO’s blockchain group; Monaco Marco, leader of the blockchain competence center at PwC Italy; Pimpinella Martino Maurizio, president of the Italian Association of Paying Services Providers; and Vitale Marco, president of blockchain firm Quadrans Foundation.

The board has been in the pipeline since September 2018 when The Ministry of Economic Development called for more government focus to “know, deepen and address the issue of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and blockchain, as well as increase public and private investments in this direction.

This view was highlighted by comments at the end of last year from Italy’s deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio, when he suggested that: “Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain are destined to radically change our lives, the society in which we live and the economic and productive fabric of the country. We have to decide which way to go.”

Italy became the 27th nation to sign the agreement to join the European Blockchain Partnership since its conception earlier this year in April. The partnership has grown from 22 nations since its launch. Initially, the EU had launched an EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum, subsequently investing more than EUR 80 million in blockchain projects. A further EUR 300 million has been allocated over the next four years.

The main aims of the new Italian advisory group are to examine future use cases for blockchain in both public and private sectors and establish appropriate tools for governing its use.

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New Irish AML Bill Could Impact Crypto Adoption

New Irish AML Bill Could Impact Crypto Adoption

The Irish government has approved a bill which targets money laundering in the Irish Republic and makes reference to cryptocurrency as a source of terrorist funding.

The European Union’s (EU) directive on money laundering effectively gives Ireland the rights as one of its 28 members to enact amendments to existing Irish Law to counter money laundering and terrorist activity.
Despite extensive research demonstrating that cash is the major source of funding for terrorist activity, the Irish government bill proposes the EU addition to its AML laws.

The law will restrict any use of “virtual currencies for terrorist financing and limiting the use of prepaid cards” and also give the Irish police (Garda) the right to access personal bank records during any money laundering investigations. Minister of Justice, Charlie Flanagan, referred to the EU add-on but made no reference to cryptocurrency being used for illegal activity:

“The reality is that money laundering is a crime that helps serious criminals and terrorists to function, destroying lives in the process… Criminals seek to exploit the EU’s open borders and EU-wide measures are vital for that reason. Ireland strongly supports the provisions in the fifth EU money laundering directive.”

If the bill goes through there may be an impact on new cryptocurrency adopters in the Republic due to banks’ tighter KYC controls. The amended legislation is a reflection of the EU’s new stance on money laundering which gives member states rights to tighten controls and include cryptocurrency exchanges in AML regulations.

 

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EU’s Free Trade Infrastructure Needs a Lift From Blockchain

EU’s Free Trade Infrastructure Needs A Lift From Blockchain

The European Parliament has published a document ‘Blockchain: a forward-looking trade policy,’ which continues to push forward the adoption of DLT in EU trade.

As a provisional resolution, the document sets out a scenario by which the free trade agreements (FTAs) currently enjoyed by member states could be used to bolster blockchain technology. The document states:

“EU FTAs have large untapped potential and have yet to be fully utilized. Blockchain has the potential to support the TSD agenda by providing trust in the provenance of raw materials and goods, transparent production processes and supply chains.”

Although no policy changes are suggested, the EU resolution does advocate a set of guidelines by which blockchain might provide industry, customs, and regulatory authorities with a degree of legal certainty. The resolution wants more clarification on how economic efficiency can be legally enhanced across Europe supply chain and infrastructure logistics. The document states:

“The EU has an opportunity to become a leading actor in the field of blockchain and international trade, and that it should be an influential actor in shaping its development globally, together with international partners.”

The resolution noted that FTAs in the EU was underutilized with only 67 percent of EU exporters and 90 percent of EU importers making use of the preferential tariffs. It emphasized that blockchain could help improve these trade policies.

Last month, the formation of  “Blockchain for Europe” association was revealed, naming Ripple, NEM, EMURGO/Cardano and Fetch.AI as founding members.

A Finextra press release describes the association as “the first credible attempt” to establish a “unified voice” for the European blockchain industry. It argues that policy debates are “fragmented – with inconsistent information from those outside the blockchain sector challenging consensus within it.”

The four members of Blockchain for Europe are taking it upon themselves to educate EU and member-state institutions on the “true nature and potential of the distributed ledger (DLT) and blockchain technology.” Like many of the associations before it, Blockchain for Europe echoes concerns with regards to regulations and desires to establish ones that promote innovation in the region.

Also, four major European banks recently used R3’s Corda platform to create a live transaction for their Euro Debt Solution.

The banks, Commerzbank, ING, Natixis, and Rabobank have adapted blockchain technology, according to a new Banking Tech report, by finding a solution to minimize operational costs and risks using R3. Corda is a distributed ledger platform that is the outcome of over two years of intense research and development by R3 and 80 of the world’s largest financial institutions.

This month seven EU member states signed their own declaration calling for the promotion of DLT’s use in the region. The declaration was co-signed by Malta, Italy, France, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, and Greece.

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“Blockchain for Europe” Formed with Ripple as 1 of 4 Founders

“Blockchain for Europe” Formed with Ripple as 1 of 4 Founders

The formation of a “Blockchain for Europe” association has been revealed by a press release which names Ripple, NEM, EMURGO/Cardano and Fetch.AI as the founding members.

Representation

Published on UK-based technology and finance news website Finextra on 5 Dec, the press release describes that association as “the first credible attempt” to establish a “unified voice” for the European blockchain industry. It argues that policy debates are “fragmented – with inconsistent information from those outside the blockchain sector challenging consensus within it”.

As such, the four members of Blockchain for Europe are taking it upon themselves to educate EU and member-state institutions on the “true nature and potential of distributed ledger (DLT) and blockchain technology”. Like many of the associations before it, Blockchain for Europe echoes concerns with regards to regulations and desires to establish ones that promotes innovation in the region.

Associations in action

There are some merits to the existence of so-called associations as they can often be catalysts for positive change, which is done by pushing pro-blockchain agendas for multiple facets of the industry. They can also function as a means to signal how invested a particular part of the world is in the technology whilst providing direct support for startups and educating bureaucrats and lawmakers.

For example, Mexico recently established its first blockchain consortium that wishes to make uses of the technology safer, reduce crime-related uses of the tech, provide public education and so on. Additionally, the Korean Blockchain Association strives to bring the legalization of domestic initial coin offerings (ICOs) to fruition, a topic that is of great concern to industry heads and the government over fears of startups seeking ICO-friendly jurisdictions.

For Europe

The association is ambitiously setting out to “shape the global agenda on blockchain”. Having already hosted the Blockchain for Europe Summit in November, where international stakeholders discussed healthcare, transport, trade, tokens, cryptocurrencies and more, the association is prepping to make 2019 and formative one.

Commenting in the press release, Dan Morgan, Ripple’s European Head of Regulatory Relations said: “This is a critical time for policymakers in Europe as they seek to develop the right regulatory framework to capture the benefits of both digital assets and blockchain technology.”

Unlike some governing entities around the world, Blockchain for Europe may not be coming up against egregious skepticism. Generally speaking, the EU has positioned itself as a cautious yet optimistic advocate of blockchain technologies. An October meeting in Strasbourg, France, saw Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) debate on how to create “legal certainty” for blockchain, and furthermore, enthusiastically discuss the potential of blockchain.

Additionally, the vice president of the European Commission famously stated that “crypto-assets are here to stay”, offering a positive outlook to startups and enterprises that are venturing into the cryptocurrency and ICO sector of the blockchain industry.

Also offering his thoughts, Manmeet Singh, CIO at EMURGO said: “…we are very keen to work with the European institutions in crafting the rules and regulations which will enable blockchain technology to thrive globally.”

 

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