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Blockchain technologies receive a shot in the arm: European Commission launches the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum

Vallabh Rao
5th Feb 2018
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The EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum will play an active role in helping Europe to seize new opportunities offered by blockchain, build expertise and show leadership in the field.

The European Commission has launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum with the support of the European Parliament. The Blockchain Observatory and Forum will highlight key developments of the blockchain technology, promote European actors and reinforce European engagement with multiple stakeholders involved in blockchain activities.

The European Commission has been funding blockchain projects through the European Union's research programmes FP7 and Horizon 2020 since 2013. Up to 2020, it will fund projects that could draw on blockchain technologies for up to €340 million. The European Commission (EC) is the 'engine room' of the EU. It is one of 3 main EU institutions; the other two are the European Parliament (EP) and the Council (of the European Union).

Blockchain technologies, which store blocks of information that are distributed across the network, are seen as a major breakthrough, as they bring about high levels of traceability and security in economic transactions online. They are expected to impact digital services and transform business models in a wide range of areas, such as healthcare, insurance, finance, energy, logistics, intellectual property rights management or government services.

Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said: “I see blockchain as a game changer and I want Europe to be at the forefront of its development. We need to establish the right enabling environment - a Digital Single Market for blockchain so that all citizens can benefit, instead of a patchwork of initiatives. The EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum is an important step in that direction.”

The European Commission wants to build on the existing initiatives, ensure that they can work across borders, consolidate expertise and address the challenges created by the new paradigms enabled by blockchain (such as disintermediation, trust, security and traceability by design).  

The EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum will play an active role in helping Europe to seize new opportunities offered by blockchain, build expertise and show leadership in the field. It will be gathering information, monitoring and analysing trends, addressing challenges and exploring blockchains' socioeconomic potential. It will enable cross border cooperation on practical use cases, bringing Europe's best experts together and promoting an open forum for blockchain technologists, innovators, citizens, industry stakeholders, public authorities, regulators and supervisors, to discuss and develop new ideas in order to learn, engage and contribute in an open way.  

ConsenSys has been selected as partner to support the Observatory's outreach in Europe following a call for tenders launched last year. As an important actor in the blockchain community, ConsenSys will bring strong commitment to blockchain development, solid expertise and connections with the global blockchain ecosystem, and an entrepreneurial approach to engage with stakeholders and experts in the EU and worldwide. It will work in close cooperation with Commission services to run the EU Observatory and Forum, after having signed the contract on 29 January 2018.

The European Commission wants to provide more visibility to blockchain actors and build on existing initiatives, consolidate expertise and address the challenges created by the new paradigms enabled by blockchain, such as supporting the European Industry, improve business processes and enable new business models. The Blockchain Observatory and Forum was created as a European Parliament pilot project proposed by Member of European Parliament Jakob von Weizsäcker and is intended to support the Commission's work of FinTech.

Many European companies and startups are already offering blockchain-based solutions. Major players from traditional sectors, like banks, insurances, stock exchanges, logistics or companies are engaged in pilot projects. Many Member States have announced initiatives as they seek to reinforce their use of blockchain technology.

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