How many European companies are part of the web giants? Spoiler: there are none. The GAFAMs, which dominate the web, are now exclusively American. This is why the turn of the Internet is often seen as a failure. Google, Amazon, YouTube, Microsoft, none of these companies are accountable to European citizens. Even though these services are now essential and used every day by billions of people. From now on, Europe is facing a new technological meeting: that of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. It is therefore an issue of digital sovereignty that arises. It is also a political question for the EU, which is rather in favor of centralization and legal harmonisation. It is in this context that the EU Blockchain Ecosystem Developments ” was born. The report analyzes in depth the future potentialities in Europe.
A blockchain ecosystem under construction
L’EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum is made up of a group of about fifteen researchers. Most work within the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, a major crypto hub. Over the 217 pages of the document, we discover a rich European ecosystem. In addition to the 27 member countries, the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein were also scrutinized. It should be noted that the report was commissioned on the initiative of the European Commission. This is obviously no coincidence: the commission seeks to draw up a complete inventory of the various situations, country by country. The goal ? Attempt to harmonize regulatory policies regarding cryptos between each nation. This is also the proposed MiCA law (Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on Markets in Crypto-Assets).
This harmonization is the key word for central banks, represented by Christine Lagarde and her American counterpart Jerome Powell who met in September 2022 in Paris. It is in this context that the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) was created by 21 EU member states in 2018. It marks the first EU-wide initiative dedicated specifically to blockchain. However, the interest of the ECB and the European Commission for cryptos is not not without risk for decentralization. An ideal that bitcoin have been going on for years.
Regardless of these political questions, the research team takes a rather enthusiastic look at the economic and social potential of blockchain. the report mainly focuses on business opportunities and business opportunities. Of course, he mentions CBDCs (central bank digital currencies) which are of increasing interest to governments. Especially since the arrival of the digital euro is scheduled for 2025. However, the report prefers not to dwell on the subject and focuses on the already existing ecosystem, built by the communities.
Stimulating innovation and harmonizing crypto regulation in Europe
To analyze each country, the team retains two main indicators: maturity level of the ecosystem (companies, university courses, user communities) and the level of regulation.
Cross-checking a lot of data, the researchers have thus drawn up a classification in the form of a table which makes it possible to quickly visualize where the countries are in the train of the blockchain (see tweet above). For example, the number of ATMs per region (which can be consulted via this interactive map) is an interesting indicator. The researchers also made an estimate of the interest of national populations based on search engine queries. Finally, they took into account academic interest: the number of teaching programs related to cryptography, blockchain or Bitcoin. A way to measure the legitimacy of these technologies with institutions.
We find that countries like the Netherlands, Lithuania or Slovenia have some of the most mature crypto ecosystems (in proportion to their population). We logically find Switzerland, France and Germany at the top of the ranking. Other nations are surprising: in the blockchain industry, it is not the biggest who are the first. We thus learn that Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia and Malta are all countries that rely on technological innovation and try to get out of the game (and succeed). Their modest size could well prove to be a strength in developing the blockchain industry of tomorrow. However, this industry is developing very unevenly between countries. Overall, the northern countries remain more advanced, although there are significant exceptions. For example, Cyprus could well become a ” crypto nation ” prosperous. Its geographical position and its political will to develop the digital industry are major assets.
France paradoxically at the forefront of blockchain (and regulation)
“Historically, France has always been a country reluctant to create businesses. Note the researchers. Indeed, France has often taken an opposite approach to the American vision. First regulate, and then develop its businesses. From 2016, France positioned itself at the forefront of the regulation of digital assets. In a hurry to give a legal framework to the phenomenon of ICOs (Initial Coin Offering), it quickly legislated on the subject. This was followed by a whole series of other legislative initiatives in 2018 and 2019. Despite this early (and sometimes quite restrictive) regulation, it did not prevent successful business creation. This is the case of Ledger, which over the years has become the spearhead of the crypto industry in France and internationally. Their solution of hardware wallet is now used and known all over the world.
With more than 160 startups created around cryptos and the blockchain, France has a wealth of young companies with high potential. Another proof of the vitality of the French ecosystem: the number of investments. In all, the companies have raised over €180,000,000 for cryptos. And even if it remains less dynamic than in the United States, the French ecosystem is now booming. The country has gradually become a key player within the EU. France’s strong IT culture, combined with a sustained effort to support start-ups, seems to be bearing fruit.
Despite its apparent hostility to cryptos (MiCA), the EU is taking a keen interest in developments in blockchain technology. This is a strategic issue at a time when the geopolitical context is becoming tense in Europe. In this context of the search for digital and economic sovereignty, the blockchain should have the necessary characteristics to meet the state challenges of tomorrow. The rise of blockchain on the continent is real and growing every day, despite very strong disparities between countries. It remains to be seen how citizens and communities will be included in this new digital environment. One thing is certain: the future of blockchain and cryptos will be written in Europe, for better or for worse.
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