Europe, the Bitcoin Continent

Dr. Maria Chetcuti Cauchi | 24 Feb 2017

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In a lively debate organised by CEPS Ideas Lab yesterday in Brussels, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat put on the ‘hat’ of the European citizen “fed up of policymakers going round in circles” and decided to get into the spirit of the event by proposing ideas, whether risky or insane or sensible and sound to his audience. Over 43 different nationalities were represented during the event and gathered to debate key European policy issues. Representation was from national governments’ representatives, NGOs, businesses, and European institutions. Five ideas were proposed by Prime Minister Muscat and these centred around Europe should become the bitcoin continent;  citizenship as an innovative policy tool; creating a European Social Pact; establishing the European Integration Brexit Fund and opening  negotiations on Chapter 24 with Turkey.

From a fintech point of view, the most interesting proposal centred around turning Europe into the Bitcoin Continent. This though obviously extends to the use and development of sophisticated platforms and protocols based on blockchain. 

Malta’s PM declared that now is the time for Europe to embark on another 'unthinkable' project. Even though the rise of crypto currencies can be slowed it cannot be stopped and these are here to stay. Some financial entities are slowly accepting the fact that the system at the back of such transactions, blockchain, is much more efficient and transparent than the classical ones and can definitely not be discarded.

“My point is that rather than resist, European regulators should innovate and create mechanisms in which to regulate crypto currencies, in order to harness their potential and better protect consumers, while making Europe the natural home of innovators.”

Discussions then ensued to present the four other controversial ideas to his fellow Europeans, including selling citizenships to the EU and opening a dialog with Turkey about their human rights problems. To end his presentation, Dr Muscat said he hoped these five ideas incite a few debates with reactions and thoughts being welcome. 

This innovative outlook merges very well with Malta's strategy to position itself as an innovation hub. For the last twenty years, Malta has been a forward looking destination, with an open business-centric commercial community that stands tall as an EU member state, and a proven record of economic success.

Malta has developed a clear strategy for sustainable economic development, identifying key sectors with high growth potential as well as plans to support their consolidation and success. These sectors include, but are not limited to, information and communication technology, advanced manufacturing, life sciences (including the biotechnological, pharmaceutical and chemical industries), transport and advanced logistics, tourism, international education services, financial services, and the creative industries.

Malta Prime Minister's comments on bitcoin are not the only initiatives the island is doing to master cryptocurrencies and new payment and transactional typologies. Other initiativbes include the Malta Stock Exchange (MSE) setting up a Blockchain Think Tank consisting of members of the Exchange’s Board, its Chairman and Chief Executive and outside experts. The latter will assist in the formulation of a strategy geared towards addressing blockchain as an emerging technology. Chairing the committee will be Dr. Abdalla Kablan, an MSE Director, entrepreneur and academic specializing in machine intelligence, big data, analytics and computational finance. MSE's Chairman Mr. Joseph Portelli said “Malta and the MSE are quite fortunate to have at our disposal our country’s preeminent technologist and a globally recognized expert on blockchain technology. Dr. Kablan has a proven track record within the technology space, evidenced by his latest start-up Hippo Data, the first Maltese company to ever be selected into the London Microsoft Accelerator Program.” This program is an initiative that helps entrepreneurs grow their companies.



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