by Cindy Huynh
The 22 member states of the European Union (EU) signed on April 10, 2018, a declaration to establish a European Blockchain Partnership. The partnership focuses on creating a positive environment for blockchain technology to thrive in the future.
The Digital Day 2018 press release highlighted that “Europe should move forward, and [build] on the Digital Single Market, increase investments and foster cooperation in a series of key areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, eHealth, and innovation.”
The partnership comes just a few months after the European Commission (EC) launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum in February 2018. The contributing member states have invested 80 million euros to support blockchain-based projects. They will invest another 300 million euros by 2020.
Progressive Attitude Towards Blockchain Technology
The EU’s welcoming attitude towards blockchain technology is inspired by the Digital Single Market, an initiative by the EC. The EC describes the Digital Single Market as “a strategy of the European Commission to ensure access to online activities for individuals and businesses under conditions of fair competition, consumer and data protection, removing geo-blocking, and copyright issues.” The EC hopes the initiative will lead to a better connected EU with digital products and services that can benefit everyone.
On Digital Day 2018, Andrus Ansip, the Vice President of the EC stated that “AI and blockchain…[are] the areas where Europe is best positioned to play a leading role. However, it is no secret that we have to invest – both politically and financially.” Ansip also asked EU members also actively to implement blockchain technology. “I would like to see EU countries make a similar commitment to blockchain technologies – now moving out of the lab and going mainstream.”
The EU is currently funding two active blockchain projects, MH\MD a blockchain for healthcare and DECODE a blockchain for privacy. DECODE will launch its pilot in Barcelona and Amsterdam in 2018.
Future of Blockchain in the EU
The European Commission has high hopes for emerging digital-ledger technologies. Although blockchain technology impacted the finance industry significantly, the European Blockchain Partnership has an ambitious vision to implement blockchain technology in multiple industries.
“In the future, all public services will use blockchain technology,” said Mariya Gabriel, EC’s Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society.
“Blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe and Member States to rethink their information systems, to promote user trust and the protection of personal data, to help create new business opportunities and to establish new areas of leadership, benefiting citizens, public services and companies. The Partnership launched today enables Member States to work together with the European Commission to turn the enormous potential of blockchain technology into better services for citizens”.
There are however contrasting views concerning the use of blockchain technology towards public services. “Right now, putting public services on blockchain is a security risk,” said Michael Smolenski, CEO of Lightstreams, as he told Computer Business Review. Other leaders, however, “believe that the economy works best when it works for everyone, and this new platform is an engine of inclusion,” said Don & Alex Tapscott, authors of Blockchain Revolution.
Despite Smolenski’s criticism, 22 countries out of the 28 in the European Economic Area (EEA) have already signed the agreement. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.
The EC invites all members of the EEA to join the partnership. The European Blockchain Partnership promises to enable blockchain by introducing better governance that will comply with the EU law.