What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a technology that allows people and organisations to reach agreement on and permanently record transactions and information in a transparent way without a central authority. It has been recognised as an important tool for building a fair, inclusive, secure and democratic digital economy. This has significant implications for how we think about many of our economic, social and political institutions.
The EU’s Strategy
The European Commission has a holistic approach to blockchain technologies and DLT, which aims at positioning Europe at the forefront of blockchain innovation and uptake. In this rapidly evolving context, the EU relies on the following main initiatives to enable globally inclusive governance, reinforce cooperation and investments in deploying blockchain/DLT based applications, support international standard setting and facilitate dialogue between industry stakeholders and regulators, notably for a regulatory framework, that builds on the EU acquis.
The European Blockchain Partnership
The European Blockchain Partnership, created in April 2018, joins at a political level all EU Member States and members of the European Economic Area (Norway and Liechtenstein). The signatories of this declaration will work together towards realising the potential of blockchain-based services for the benefit of citizens, society and economy. As part of this commitment, the Partnership is building a European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) which will deliver EU-wide cross-border public services using blockchain technology. In 2020, EBSI will deploy a network of distributed blockchain nodes across Europe, supporting applications focused on selected use cases.
In December 2019, the European Commission started an open market consultation in preparation of the European Blockchain Pre-Commercial Procurement that is looking for novel, improved blockchain solutions for the future evolution of the European Blockchain Service Infrastructure. Interested market parties are invited to participate in the open market consultation activities.
Public-private cooperation is essential to progress and ensure uptake. Officially launched on 3rd April 2019, the International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA) is a multi-stakeholder organisation based in Brussels. It brings together suppliers and users of Distributed Ledger Technologies with representatives of governmental organisations and standard setting bodies from all over the world. They share the common vision of promoting transparent governance, interoperability, legal certainty and trust in services enabled by blockchain and DLT.
Connecting European and Global Expertise
In February 2018 the European Commission, in collaboration with the European Parliament, launched the European Blockchain Observatory and Forum. The Observatory and Forum acts as a stakeholders engagement platform, an initiative to accelerate blockchain innovation and uptake, by featuring, knowledge sharing, community engagement, project mapping, working groups on use cases and the regulatory framework, production of thematic reports and delivery of training. It hosts lively debates, organises workshops and produces reports with the help of many European and international stakeholders.
The European Commission has launched a Call for Tenders for the renewal of the European Blockchain Observatory and Forum (SMART 2019/0015).
Promoting an Enabling DSM Legal Framework
Legal certainty is a success factor for business to operate across the single market.
The European Commission currently sees two areas related to blockchain which could benefit from improved legal certainty:
- Smart contracts: The European Commission will study whether the current legal framework is sufficiently clear to ensure the enforceability of smart contracts and clarify jurisdiction in case of legal disputes.
- Tokenisation: The European Commission will study whether the current legal framework is appropriate for issuing and trading tokens (i.e.: crypto assets), when they are not considered as financial instruments.
A ‘Study on Blockchains: Legal, Governance and Interoperability Aspects’ has been launched to examine legal and regulatory aspects and socio-economic impacts of blockchain-inspired technologies.
Promoting Interoperable Standards
Interoperable blockchains are needed for global deployment. The European Commission is thus supporting and is engaged in work on international standardisation, for DLT and blockchainin particular through a a liaison with ISO TC 307 on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies.