European Commission to set up a blockchain observatory

By Giovanni Campi and Jonathan Lawrence

The European Commission recently announced that it is working on setting up an EU blockchain observatory. This will be a pilot project to build up technical expertise and regulatory capacity on topics related to blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT).

The EU blockchain observatory is being developed under the framework of the European Commission’s Task Force on FinTech, which was established following the adoption by the European Parliament of an own-initiative report on virtual currencies on 26 May 2016. Co-chaired by the European Commission’s Directorate Generals on Financial Services (DG FISMA) and on the Digital Single Market (DG CONNECT), the Task Force was set up in November 2016 to explore policy responses to FinTech. It is expected to deliver its final recommendations in the course of 2017.

The observatory will include a platform for the blockchain community to interact and share up-to-date information on relevant initiatives around the world. The European Commission hopes to create an “expertise hub” on blockchain technology and its potential applications. It will aim at fostering expertise on infrastructure, smart contracts, governance and validation mechanisms. Regulatory and legal challenges, as well as interoperability issues, will also fall within its scope. The purpose of the observatory will also be to assess the added value of potential applications of innovations that it will identify. In addition, it will provide the European Commission with advice on the role to be played by European public authorities.

The European Commission plans to launch a call for tender for a contractor to set up the observatory platform by the summer of 2017. The estimated budget for the project is €500,000 over two years.

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