The government of Switzerland is reportedly working towards laying down regulations for the blockchain and Initial Coin Offering (ICO) industry. Spearheading the movement is Taskforce Blockchain, a group led by the country’s Finance and Economic and Education ministers, Ueli Maurer and Johann Schneider-Ammann. The team also includes federal, local legal representatives and key members of the Swiss blockchain startup ecosystem.
Making Safe Crypto Valley
Taskforce Blockchain’s primary responsibility will be first to examine the current state of the blockchain ecosystem in Switzerland and the relevant guidelines affecting startups. Subsequently, the group will work closely with the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters, presumably to incorporate applicable financial policy for the development of businesses in the future.
The Economics and Education Minister, Johann Schneider-Ammann, also emphasized the need for liberal regulation, while still cautioning against the risks currently associated with the industry.
Switzerland is already home to a variety of blockchain-related startups. In fact, the geographic area between Zurich and Zug that has been popularly referred to as “Crypto Valley.” Zug alone is home to several companies in the industry and is the home ground for The Ethereum Foundation, heralded as the wealthiest blockchain company in the world as of May 2017.
It is interesting to note that while the Swiss government has indicated that it is receptive to blockchain-related startups and particularly the surrounding ICO ecosystem, not all countries share the same perspective. China, for instance, has been openly hostile to startups offering ICOs and went as far as banning them altogether in September 2017.
On the other hand, the United States of America has taken a more moderate stance on the issue with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) keeping a close eye on the market. Shortly after cautioning investors against fraudulent practices in 2017, the agency set up a dedicated cyber unit to cease “misconduct perpetrated using the dark web” and possibly to keep ICOs in check.
Given that past experiences have repeatedly demonstrated the potential of scams plaguing the industry, especially with the large amounts of money usually at stake, it is likely that a few other governments will follow suit.
Even though ICOs present themselves as a technical challenge to police, the remainder of the blockchain industry is relatively safe from government intervention. Almost every major country, including China, has announced that it would be working to integrate blockchains into various aspects of governance shortly. Despite that fact, and to the dismay of many, very few governments have released regulatory frameworks on the subject.
Switzerland’s initiative to legally recognize Taskforce Blockchain’s efforts in legitimizing blockchain-related startups and ICOs comes as a breath of fresh air for the associated industries. Given that the country has historically played a key role in propelling blockchain startups, it is a pivotal moment for the majority of the ecosystem. The inaugural meeting of the Taskforce Blockchain was held on January 12, 2018.