Blockchain technology has started attracting a lot of attention in the EU, especially in the last few years. So much so, in fact, that the EU classified it as promising and challenging some time ago. But, after observing this technology’s potential, it appears that the European Union might be ready to make a move that will lead to blockchain’s adoption.
The current situation is a result of a decision made in February 2018, when the European Commission (EC) decided to launch a Blockchain Observatory and Forum in order to support international engagement with the new technology and its stakeholders. Since then, the organization made three reports — in July, October, and December.
However, following the launch of the organization, the next step came in April. On this occasion, 21 countries that were EU members, accompanied by Norway, decided to sign a Declaration that resulted in creating the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP). Since then, five more countries decided to join in 2018 — Greece, Romania, Denmark, Cyprus, and Italy. The main focus of this partnership is interoperability, energy efficiency, cybersecurity, and privacy.
A few months ago, a report called “EUS Blockchain Technology Market (2018-2023)” coming from ResearchAndMarkets.com stated that EU will likely increase investment into the blockchain from $94 million to $386 million by 2020. The report expressed a positive view of the situation of blockchain technology in Europe based on several aspects.
Following this, another move that will bring Europe closer to blockchain was made in October. This was when the European Parliament created a new resolution called “Distributed ledger technologies and blockchains: building trust with disintermediation”. The document predicts that DLT might affect most, if not all, sectors of the economy. However, finance, health care, education, public governance, transport, copyrights, data protection, and similar sectors received the most attention.
However, the biggest conclusion that can be made due to the agreement is that Parliament has plans to realize the proposed policies. Despite the risks of the new technologies, it appears that the EU believes that the potential benefits are worth it.
As mentioned, the health care sector is among those that have received the most attention when it comes to the potential of DLT implementation. A project called MHMD (My Health My Data) aims to use the blockchain for storing medical data in a safe and effective environment. By employing the blockchain, both public and private institutions would be able to access patients’ digital data, under the patients’ own control.
The focus is on the protection of personal data which will also allow people more control over how their data is stored, managed, and used. Blockchain can and should protect the privacy of sensitive data related to health, and allow citizens the ability to choose which data to share.
As for the implementation of DLT in financial services, there are several major advantages. The first one, of course, is the significance of the blockchain in improving transparency, reducing transaction costs, eliminating hidden fees, and better managing data and streamlining processes.
It is believed that trends of DLT implementation should be monitored, but also encouraged. Of course, one big concern is the volatility and uncertainty of crypto. In fact, the ECB and EC will have to provide a report on volatility sources in crypto, but also identify what may pose a danger to the public. If cryptocurrencies can, in fact, be incorporated in the European payment system, then the possibilities must be explored as well.
ICOs were also seen as an important risk, mostly due to the lack of clarity when it comes to legal frameworks that are applied to ICOs. The EC and national regulators will, therefore, be asked to identify criteria that can improve investors’ protection and regulate ICOs in a better, more precise way.
While Europe does recognize the potential of blockchain technology, it is believed that there is still a serious lack of education regarding this technology. Only a week ago, big blockchain firms including the NEM Foundation, Ripple, Fetch.AI, and Emurgo decided to create a new association called “Blockchain for Europe”.
Slowly but surely, European countries are turning to DLT, with some countries only just entering the space, while others have been involved for a while now. The ultimate goal of the EU is to become a global leader in this field, which is clear from numerous initiatives that have taken place in 2018.