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Southern Europe stakes a claim to blockchain leadership

Seven EU members including France, Spain, and Italy commit to advancing blockchain law and technology

Representatives of seven Southern European countries.

Representatives of seven Southern European countries after signing a joint declaration promoting the use of blockchain technology in providing government services. Representatives from Italy, Portugal, and Spain are inexplicably shielding themselves (photo by Ray Attard via Prime Minister Silvio Schembri’s Twitter account).

Seven European Union member states including France, Spain, and Italy have signed a joint declaration committing them to promoting the use of blockchain technology in providing government services.

Led by Malta, which has been positioning itself as the EU’s “Blockchain Island,” the seven Mediterranean nations on Dec. 4 announced their “forward-looking vision to make Southern Europe a leader on emerging technologies, such as Distributed Ledger Technologies,” another name for the blockchain technology underlying cryptocurrencies. “We believe that Distributed Ledger Technologies could be one of the instruments that can help our countries transform their economies and society into truly digital ones and become a leading region in this sector,” the declaration reads.

The group, which also includes Greece, Portugal, and Cyprus, called trust-based distributed ledger technology a “potential game changer” with uses that include “smart contracts in areas such as certifying product origin, education, transport, mobility, shipping, land registry, customs, company registry, and healthcare amongst others.”

Potential benefits include not just the “enhancement of e-government services” but also “increased transparency and reduced administrative burdens, better customs collection and better access to public information,” as well as “enhanced transparency, accountability and privacy for the end-users,” the declaration reads.

The group also called upon the EU to continue work on the European Blockchain Partnership, which has the goal of supporting cross-border digital public services with high standards of security and privacy. In September, Italy became the 26th of the 28 EU member states (including the UK) to join the European Blockchain Partnership. Non-EU member Norway is also a member of the partnership, while EU members Croatia and Hungary are not.

In July, Malta passed a trio of laws establishing a regulatory framework for blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies, according to CNN Money. At the time, Malta’s junior minister for financial services, digital economy and innovation, Silvio Schembri, called Malta “the first world jurisdiction to provide legal certainty in this space,” on twitter.

Yesterday, Schembri Tweeted, “Proud to see the smallest nation in the EU taking a leading role,” in the blockchain technology space.

The regulatory black hole of uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrencies—and whether they are securities, commodities, or something else—is a big problem for Bitcoin and other digital currencies in the U.S.

As Modern Consensus reported earlier this week, the issue arose on Sunday at the G20 Leaders Summit of the heads of state of the world’s largest economies. On Dec. 3, the group issued a declaration that included a commitment to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Leo Jakobson is a New York-based journalist who has spent much of the last 15 years covering the employee engagement and recognition business. Before that he covered the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and wrote about politics in New York City. Disclosure: Jakobson owns no cryptocurrencies.

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