Category Archives: European Commission

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Estonia’s Own Private Bull Run Boasts 900 Crypto Firms in Less Than a Year

Bitcoin News has been following Estonia’s cryptocurrency march with some interest this year, and with over 900 licenses granted within the first year of the regulator’s initial registration ruling in that country, there seems to be no stopping its enthusiasm for the enterprise.

Estonia was one of the first jurisdictions in the EU to legislate cryptocurrencies and many companies are now doing business there. The Baltic region is fast becoming a northern crypto-paradise with Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia all experiencing a recent economic boom. This has made Estonia a breeding ground for new startups.

Even its neighbor Latvia, though behind Estonia in cryptocurrency adoption, is beginning to make real inroads into developing a positive input to the industry. In March 2018, Latvia hosted an international discussion between industry experts on the future of fintech in the Baltics and the overall EU, which featured the vice-president of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis as keynote speaker.

But it’s Estonia breaking the records at present due to a progressive approach to cryptocurrency, despite the country abandoning its plans to introduce its own cryptocurrency after being warned by President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi earlier this year.

500 licenses have been issued to date with over 400 wallet providers also being issued permission to operate. It appears that obtaining a license to operate a platform in Estonia is relatively simple according to Nikolay Demchuk from the law firm Njord which works in the sector. As Estonia operates under EU rules, the main emphasis on obtaining accreditation is complying with local and EU rules. Businesses applying also need to prove that they can operate with adequate KYC and AML protection.

Approval only takes about two weeks and are issued by the local regulator, the Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), but companies must begin operating within six months of receiving their licenses under the pressure of losing them.

The biggest drawback in Estonia concerns banking as there is still a reluctance among the country’s banking community to provide services to cryptocurrency exchanges. However, the e-residency program, introduced in 2014, allows non-Estonians access to Estonian services such as company formation, banking, payment processing, and taxation. The program also allows anyone in the world to apply for a digital ID card and gain access to Estonian e-services when planning to start a company in the country.

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EU Commission “Pleased” with Blockchain Enthusiasm from European Parliament

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) gathered today in Strasbourg, France for plenary meetings are currently debating the use of blockchain technology, with Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip saying minutes ago that he was “pleased” to see MEPs on the same page as the EU Commission in its enthusiasm for blockchain potential.

Sandwiched between a session on human rights violations in Chechnya and economic support for remote regions, the debate on blockchain sought to discuss how the EU Commission would provide “legal certainty” for the use of the technology.

Earlier, MEP Dario Tamburrano from Italy urged the European Parliament members to move towards legislation to avoid “losing control” of new technologies, echoing French MEP Christelle Lechavalier’s statement that regulators should give blockchain adequate time to provide evidence and maturity for use across multiple sectors.

Both Italy and France have been making fervent moves towards cryptocurrency especially in recent months. The former last week became the 27th nation to enter the European Blockchain Partnership, which seeks to foster blockchain cooperation between member nations. France this year axed income tax on cryptocurrency and has a pro-crypto finance minister in the shape of Bruno Le Maire, who maintained that blockchain was “a revolution”.

MEPs from Eastern European nations – themselves keen to establish blockchain hubs in the region – were also vocal in the debate, with Lithuanian centre-right MEP Antanas Guoga asking fellow Parliament members to accept that blockchain is “here to stay”. He warned that laggards would have to “live with” not being able to have “much say” over the technology, pointing out that decentralized systems would be highly resistant to external attempts for control.

Romania’s Cristian-Silviu Busoi cautioned the EU against “rushing prematurely” into regulation or face stifled innovation.

Ansip closed the session, saying that blockchain should not be seen as a “panacea” but stressed that it was an opportunity that “cannot be overlooked”. The assembly is expected to vote tomorrow on 2 October on a non-binding motion which will mandate the Commission to conduct an impact study of a “wider update” of blockchain in the EU.

 

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Crypto to Come Under Microscope at Vienna EU Talks

The EU is ready for its next round of talks with the 28 member states ready to discuss digital assets and whether further legislation is needed.

The next round is scheduled to be held in the Austrian capital Vienna on 7 September and is said to include certain issues surrounding cryptocurrencies such as money laundering, tax evasion and terrorist financing, all subjects which have been of concern to EU legislators over recent years.

It’s thought that the focus on money laundering, tax evasion and terrorist financing planned for Vienna has been motivated in part by concerns that EU laws don’t provide enough protection to investors, particularly in light of Asian moves to tighten regulation following hacking incidents this year. Also, the fact that unregulated exchanges fall outside of global financial regulations has caused some extra concern.

It should be acknowledged that while these concerns continue to dominate EU discussions, it has been noted by the both the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that both digital currencies and blockchain technology can bring great benefits to capital markets and commerce in general.

Regulators in Europe are also keen on harnessing the new technologies unleashed by digital currencies, according to the updated document. Initial coin offerings “have established an effective and efficient way to raise capital”, it said, adding that this development could also help integrate capital markets in the bloc.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire recently described cryptocurrency as a “revolution”. Income tax on crypto has been axed by the French government and former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now IMF head, described future international digital currency regulation as “inevitable”.

Lagarde said that not only could Bitcoin enable fast and inexpensive transactions but that the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies, blockchain, could make financial markets safer.

Other states have made positive comments with the German federal government stating that cryptocurrencies don’t pose any threat to financial stability and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announcing the launch of a collaborative entity, the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN).

An EU document obtained by Bloomberg says that ICOs “have established an effective and efficient way to raise capital”. The document reportedly also states that ICOs could help integrate capital markets in the EU.

 

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