Blockchain at the European Parliament

EU has been exploring Blockchain for a while now. In February 2017, European Parliament Research Services (EPRS) published an in-depth analysis report on “How blockchain technology could change our lives”.

Spotlight on Blockchain in European Parliament

A Joint event between STOA (European Parliament) & DG CONNECT (European Commission) “Spotlight on Blockchain: a new generation of digital services” was organised on May 10, 2017 at Brussels . This  European Parliament’s first blockchain workshop  was quite significant as EU asked for voice. Startup Europe (@StartUpEU) tweeted, “ Should the #EU take action on blockchain development? Vote on now using code 452204 #EUBlockchain”.

The event included an introductory keynote speech by Vinay Gupta, followed by two panel discussions. The first, introduced and moderated by Jakob von Weizsäcker (S&D, Germany), focused on Blockchain for financial services. The second panel, introduced and moderated by STOA Chair, Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), looked beyond financial applications to consider A new generation of blockchain-based services. The workshop included opportunities for discussion both within each panel and afterwards.

Other panelists present in the event were:

  • Phil Barry - Blokur - Blockchain for Intellectual Property Rights Management

  • Lionel Dricot - ploum.net - Blockchain for Liquid Democracy

  • François Sonnet - SolarCoin - Blockchain for Energy

  • Thibaut Schaeffer - Provenance - Blockchain for supply chains

  • Marc Taverner - BitFury - Blockchain Infrastructures

  • Heiko Hees - brainbot technologies - Blockchain for smart contacts

There are plenty of blockchain-based applications and solutions for tracking all kinds of transaction (currencies, votes in elections, management of supply chains, etc.). A selection of these applications is discussed in the EPRS report published in early February this year.

Vinay Gupta (Founder of hexayurt.capital), the keynote speaker of the event, shared the slides. He took the opportunity to put the case for new technology at the highest levels of government, at a time when interest and investment in blockchain is at all-time highs.

In a blog shared on May 9, 2017, he said, “If 'blockchain' gives us new options for how to do things, we wanted to set out some ideas about what things might change and why. This means engaging with businesses, governments, and other institutions, to lay out the new possibilities that technology offers. Building these bridges is what we do; across those bridges, new technologies and startups can move into the mainstream.”

A recent European Parliament report on virtual currencies (rapporteur, Jakob von Weizsäcker (S&D, Germany), adopted by the European Parliament in May 2016, recognized the many regulatory challenges presented by blockchain technology, while calling for a proportionate approach at EU level so as not to stifle innovation or impose superfluous costs at this early stage. The report also called for the creation of a horizontal task force, led by the European Commission and consisting of technical and regulatory experts.

The European Commission is also looking beyond the financial domain, into the challenges and opportunities of blockchain technology for various industrial sectors. The JRC’s EU policy lab in cooperation with DG GROW began #Blockchain4EU: Blockchain for Industrial Transformations in March 2017, a project to explore the possible uses and impacts of these technologies across a number of areas, including connected things, autonomous systems, supply chains, assets monitoring, logistics, intellectual property, authentication and certification, and digital manufacturing.

It's unclear if blockchain technology is the solution for every problem, yet it's not hard to believe that blockchain may lead to a revolution. It does appear that it could have a substantial impact in many areas of our lives. We should accordingly prepare for the challenges and opportunities they present.

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