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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.


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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Coinbase Lauds Japanese Crypto License Hurdles

The chief policy officer of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has praised Japan’s tightened regulatory stance on the cryptocurrency industry, saying that the exchange’s longer-than-expected waiting period to receive its operating license is a good thing.

Mike Lempres spoke with local financial news outlet Nikkei Asian Review where he supported Japan’s increased security measures on the industry, saying that “[It] is good for us”.

The increased regulations that he references include Japan’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) intensification of security requirements from cryptocurrency exchanges since January’s largest reported hack that hit Japanese platform Coincheck. USD 532 million in the NEM cryptocurrency was stolen in the incident.

New cryptocurrency exchanges are now required to go through a more enhanced clearing process before they can legally operate, with 160 apparently waiting to receive their licenses.

According to Lempres, talks with Japan’s leading financial watchdog are ”going well” and Coinbase is committed to its target of launching in Japan by 2019. The exchange has been actively looking to enter the Japanese market since June, giving the timeframe of one year for this to materialize.

Terms of the agreement are being decided

One key area of the licensing agreement still being negotiated is whether Coinbase will be required to operate internally in Japan. According to Lempres, if the FSA requires it, it will certainly be problematic for the exchange’s security measures as they currently operate from the US.

”It would be hard for us to duplicate what we do in the US today in Japan and other countries,” he explained, noting that Coinbase has dozens of security-focused employees working from its California headquarters.

While 99% of funds are stored offline, he says, 1% is held in a so-called ”hot wallet” online which is fully insured.


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Ukraine Election Trials Have Begun on NEM Blockchain

A Ukraine election official shared in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the commission’s experiments with the NEM blockchain voting trial for use in the country’s elections have gone live successfully.

The head of the country’s voter registry at the Central Election Commission of Ukraine, Oleksandr Stelmakh, commended the immutability of hosting elections on the blockchain, as well as the improved security benefits of the decentrally-hosted data. The social media post notes that the commission was continuing a series of trials that apply blockchain technology to electoral voting.

He noted that the test run utilized these properties in saving the responses to the ballots, as well as the voters’ personal information. The test vote used 28 nodes with the NEM blockchain.

A link to the timestamped NEM blockchain transactions was also shared in the post with a disclaimer that the pilot had been held in a test environment with trial coins that were donated by the NEM foundation in Ukraine.

To install blockchain voting in each Ukrainian police station, Stelmakh estimated it would cost USD 1,227 per unit, a price he sees as more than reasonable to assure the sanctity of elections is protected.

Crypto in Ukraine

Last month, the Ukraine National Securities and Stock Market Commission announced plans to further regulate the cryptocurrency industry. The commission responsible for minimizing risks in the financial sector has not endorsed legislation to legalize cryptocurrency in Ukraine, despite an increase of activity in the sector.

An internal legislative debate is reportedly taking place to codify laws around blockchain, and the storage and trade of cryptocurrencies.

In June, a government agency announced that it had no plans to regulate crypto mining. Miners, however, have been said to be keeping a low profile on their operations due to the unpredictability of the government’s reaction to cryptocurrency, with some speculating they may become subject to fines or confiscation of their mining equipment.


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London Gallery Owner Helps Crypto Wealthy Make Expensive Choices

There is an increasing number of platforms being launched to help wealthy consumers part with their cryptocurrency, usually on luxury items, writes the China Morning Post.

Such entrepreneurs have created a business seemingly out of very little, but nonetheless, they are serving a specific crypto elite and creating a thriving retailer-consumer database.

Working from her gallery in London’s Mayfair, Eleesa Dadiani is one of the new providers to the crypto rich, with clients ranging from 20 to 70 years of age. It started a couple of years ago, she maintains, has noted that those who had made significant profits from cryptocurrency trading really had no idea how to spend it. Using her established clientele through her gallery Dadiani Fine Arts she decided to make it happen by forming a syndicate of retailers and customers to turn some of this wealth into goods. She explained:

“A couple of years ago, when we saw bitcoin perform as well as it did, there was no way to use those coins. You were rich on screen, but what could you do with it? You could invest in ICOs [initial coin offerings], but what about something tangible? The answer was ‘Nothing’.”

Dadiani is certainly a believer and wants to make cryptocurrency do what it was intended for. Her gallery was one of the first globally to accept multiple cryptocurrencies; she currently supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Ripple, Dash, and NEM. Her customers come to her so she can help them make that otherwise difficult crypto purchase.

The list of her client’s purchases are impressive to say the least, from bloodstock to jets, from gold bullion to rare cars, she’s handled them all. Even the purchase of four Formula 1 cars valued at £4 million ($5.3 million) wasn’t enough to dampen her enthusiasm for her role as crypto “ middle-man.”

She says she has little time for crypto-idealists trying to create decentralized government-free crypto utopias, suggesting that people need to make a “cognitive shift” and find a way of integrating cryptocurrency into real life through gradual change. She argues:

“These libertarians, they don’t understand money, they don’t understand history,” she says. “They know nothing about politics or international relations. You have to understand the world you live in before you can change it.”

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Crypto-Funded Youth Bank Announced by Venezuelan President

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has announced that the government has plans to initiate a bank for students and young people in his country.

According to news source Telesur, the president of the economically-beleaguered Latin American country was speaking at a mass youth ceremony at Aragua this week, promising to put 20 million Petros into the new banking project.

The Petro is the nation’s controversial oil-backed cryptocurrency, the first of two according to Maduro. It is condemned by the Venezuelan Congress and the subject of continual debate as the country continues to struggle with an inflation rate of 2,400% in 2017. The crumbling economy is now causing a humanitarian crisis with 600,000 Venezuelans fleeing to neighbouring Columbia alone.

The move has been widely condemned as a way to avoid US-led sanctions against the country. Similar accusations have been aimed at Russian president Vladimir Putin, after his recent statement that he would like to move Russia towards adopting a “cryptoruble”.

According to local news source Noticas24, Maduro’s new plan is to promote the mining of cryptocurrency by high school children, with each school having its own mining operation, using school IT departments’ computers to mine cryptocurrencies.

This move, along with the USD 1.2 billion startup for his planned student bank, is designed to raise funds for young people currently enlisted on the state-issued ‘Chamba Juvenil Plan’, an initiative to combat youth unemployment. Its goal is 100% youth unemployment in Venezuela. Currently, over a million young people are part of the Chamba Juvenil Plan, and the government expects that half a million more will be added in the coming months.

During his speech, Maduro said that the plan will also be extended to universities which should each have its own crypto mining farm to support and strengthen the economy of Venezuela.

The country still awaits the launch of the petro gold, a national cryptocurrency backed by precious metals, announced back in February 2018.


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NEM Hackers Are Successfully Moving Stolen $550 Million

A Tokyo cybersecurity firm has confirmed that nearly all of the USD 550 million worth of NEM cryptocurrency (XEM) stolen in a January 2018 heist has been moved on the dark web.  The funds were initially stolen through Japanese cryptocurrency exchange platform Coincheck, in the form of 500 million NEM tokens.

The tokens were tracked by cybersecurity firm Takayuki Sugiura of L Plus. As reported by Nikkei, the firm tracked the tokens through their online transaction record to a website set up on the dark web, maintained to trade the stolen currency for alternative virtual coins. The website was estimated to have been set up around 7 February, but due to the highly anonymous nature of the dark web, the identity of the perpetrators could not be tracked.

Where does the investigation stand?

By the middle of March, the website appeared to show 50% of the stolen currency had been exchanged with unknown buyers. This led the non-profit foundation to give up their tracking of the stolen tokens. The team provided by the Tokyo police department of around 100 investigators continued their inquiry.

The results of the investigation show the virtual currencies received in exchange for the stolen NEM were saved in a number of different online wallets. Some of the wallets stored up to several million dollars in Bitcoin. Investigators believe the cryptocurrencies will be cashed out for fiat currency in the near future, using overseas exchange platforms that do not carry out thorough identity checks.

As of last Thursday evening, the website initially set up on the dark web displayed zero balance of NEM tokens, indicating they were all successfully moved.

What this means for crypto companies

Hacking perpetrated against Japan’s traditional banks’ online services is down both in volume and number in the last several years. This signals that those planning online heists may be targetting the emerging market of cryptocurrencies. During an initial coin offering (ICO) of a cryptocurrency startup, the financial investment in security measures protecting customers may be lower than that traditional banks can provide.

In order for cryptocurrency trading platforms to maintain a solid reputation for security, know-your-customer (KYC) and ID checks should be standard. Traders are not recommended to use exchange platforms that do not request proof of identification.

Coincheck refunded users who suffered from the security breach on 12 March in Japanese Yen.


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