The European Union has been taken a proactive role in blockchain technology for a while now. Earlier this year it launched the European Blockchain Observatory and Forum. This body set up through a tender process by the European Commission to “ …promote blockchain in Europe by mapping existing blockchain initiatives, analyzing and reporting on important blockchain themes, promoting blockchain education and knowledge sharing and holding events to promote debate and discussion.”
The observatory is run by the well-known blockchain company Consensys and just published one of its first major deliverables. The report titled “Blockchain Innovation in Europe” looks at the current blockchain landscape, lists key challenges, and outlines a list of emerging priorities.
As a member of the EU Blockchain Observatory’s “Blockchain Policy and Framework Conditions Working Group”, the author of this article has been involved in the processes leading to the publication of this report.
EU Blockchain Interest
However, the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum’s opinion is relevant, as it has been set up by the European Commission in a way that ensures all relevant stakeholders have a voice. The very practical process is not run by European civil servants but an experienced blockchain company. Consensys has been selected in a competitive process to lead the observatory. Potential critics would be hard pressed to find a company with more expertise in blockchain related subjects.
The editing process of reports is an open process in which anyone can participate. Input is provided by academic and industry experts, members of the observatories two working groups, the observatory secretariat and participants of public workshops organized.
In the workshop held in Vienna last May, leading to the preparation of the now released report (see video), academics from a variety of fields, blockchain startups, large consulting firms, such as Accenture, banks, such as BBVA and Barclays and many more exchanged ideas. Even major blockchain platforms, such as NEM and IOTA participated.
Including all these players in what essentially amounts to policy recommendations is an important first step to sensible policy definition and regulatory clarity for blockchain technology.
Whilst the report provides some interesting insights into the key challenges and opportunities and includes details on the social challenges of decentralization, we will not go into detail about the whole report. Instead, we will focus directly on the priorities for blockchain in the European Union that are listed as a conclusion of the report:
- The need to clarify the legal and regulatory framework. Potential conflict with the recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is highlighted.
- Focus on education and research.
- Europe should drive adoption of blockchain technology in the public and private sector.
- Promote collaboration in the blockchain space. Identity management, in particular, is singled out as a great opportunity that depends on pan-European collaboration.
- Foster blockchain innovation by studying the ecosystem and providing data on growth and condition.
An Important Step
Of course, nothing in this report and the ones to be released in future by the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum can be interpreted as policy. However, the mere fact that the EU has opted to conduct this exercise and the investment related is a sign that European legislators look favorable upon blockchain technology and are willing to see it as an opportunity, rather than a threat.