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Swiss powerhouse and French unicorns

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Despite the turbulence that broke out in the crypto market this summer, there is an important long-term marker that should be considered in any complex assessment — the combination of adoption and regulation. The latest report by EUBlockchain Observatory, named “EU Blockchain Ecosystem Developments,” tries to measure this combination within the European Union, combining the data on each and every member country from Portugal to Slovakia. 

As the original report counts more than 200 pages, Cointelegraph prepared a summary with the intent to capture the most vital information about the state of crypto and blockchain in Europe. We started from a group of countries that are usually labeled as “Western European.” 

Austria

Numbers: 50 blockchain solution providers, $48.72 million (50 million euros) in total funds raised

Regulation and legislation: A registry for Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) was established by the Financial Market Authority a year later, in 2020. Regulators have adopted an “overall non-restrictive approach” toward crypto and blockchain and crypto mining remains largely unregulated.

Taxes: As is the case in most European countries, digital currency exchange is VAT-exempt. Capital gains from the sale of crypto are subject to a progressive income tax that amounts to up to 55% for individuals and 25% for corporations, but digital taxation policies may apply if the digital currency generates interest income and thus qualifies as an investment asset.

Notable initiatives: In November 2019, the Austrian Blockchain Centre (ABC) was created to explore blockchain applications in the fields of finance, energy, logistics, public administration and the Internet of Things. ABC, currently involving more than 21 institutions and 54 companies in its public-private partnership model, aspires to become the world’s largest blockchain research center. Blockchain is also a key facilitator of the Smart City Vienna and Open Government Data initiatives.

Local players: Bitpanda, a Vienna-based trading platform, which market value exceeded $4 billion in 2021, Blockpit, a digital assets investment platform responsible for more than $500 million traded in 2017, and Conda, a crowd-investing platform for Austrian startups.

Belgium

Numbers: 47 blockchain solution providers, 992 blockchain professionals. 

Regulation and legislation: According to the report, there are currently “no specific laws or regulations” in Belgium. In 2017, Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) published a communication on an overview of the legislation and regulations that may apply to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and crypto assets.

At the same time, FSMA maintains a red list of fraudulent crypto companies. Nevertheless, utility token offerings are considered “a regular option” to raise capital. The FSMA characterizes crypto assets as investment instruments given that they may provide rights to revenues or returns, a means of storage and exchange given their convertibility into other assets or a utility token if they provide access to certain products or services.

From May 2022, registration for VASPs and custodial wallets is obligatory. The providers must fulfill certain conditions including status as a legal entity and maintaining minimum capital of 50,000 euros.

Taxes: Tax stands at 33% on any cryptocurrency income, depending on how the individual is investing. A mere increase of value over time escapes taxation, but the investor is obliged to prove their holding strategy. There is no specification on the required holding time.

Notable initiatives: “Blockchain for Europe” represents international blockchain industry players at the EU level, with a primary focus on participation in the regulatory debate. HIVE Blockchain Society is a nonprofit blockchain association whose aim is to promote the understanding of distributed ledger technology and to inform the Belgian and international community about its developments.

Local players: Keyrock, a company that develops crypto-asset financial infrastructure by means of scalable, self-adaptive algorithmic technologies, Credix, a decentralized credit marketplace powered by Solana blockchain technology, and Delta, a Bitcoin (BTC) and cryptocurrency portfolio tracker app.

France

Numbers: 160+ blockchain startups, $175.4 million (180 million euros) of fundraised revenue

Regulation and legislation: France established a friendly legal framework for ICOs in 2016, allowing issuers to register cash vouchers directly into the blockchain. In 2017, the Financial Market Authority (AMF) launched the digital-asset fundraising support and research program UNICORN. France also authorizes the registration and transfer of unlisted securities using blockchain technology.

Taxes: The country’s highest administrative court reduced the tax burden on profits coming from cryptocurrencies and set a flat rate tax of 30%.

Notable initiatives: The public Deposits and Consignments Fund makes direct investments in crypto projects. The fund has invested $292.3 million (300 million euros) in blockchain and AI in the European Commission’s Investment Programme for the Future.

Community self-organization: The French Digital Asset Association (ADAN) operates as a professional lobbying group on behalf of the industry.

Local players: Ledger, leading global cryptocurrency hardware wallet provider, Coinhouse, a crypto asset management and transaction services company, providing staking, saving and custody services, and Sorare, a fantasy football gaming platform that uses blockchain technology based on Ethereum.

Germany

Numbers: 343 blockchain startups 

Regulation and legislation: Since 2013, virtual currencies have been the “units of account.” In 2020, Germany introduced the concepts of “crypto asset” and “crypto custody.” The latter requires a license from the supervisory body BaFin. Virtual currencies are not considered legal tender in the country and are generally treated as investment assets or so-called “substitute currencies.”

Taxes: In May 2022, Germany’s Finance Ministry has released new cryptocurrency tax guidelines with no tax payable on gains from BTC and Ether (ETH) sold 12 months after acquisition.

Notable initiatives: In September 2020, the Deutsche Energie-Agentur announced the launch of the Future Energy Lab. It involves, among other things, the pilot projects related to the application of blockchain technology in the energy sector, such as the Blockchain Machine Identity Ledger (BMIL) and the Smart Contract Registry. The BMIL is a digital and decentralized directory for device identities.

The same year one of the four electricity transmission system operators in Germany announced a multi-year strategic partnership with Energy Web that will focus on testing and validating the technological promises of blockchain-based solutions.

Community self-organization: Established in 2017, the Blockchain Bundesverband is a non-profit association with more than 60 members. The association’s initiatives focus on education for decision-makers and the wider public. Based in Munich, the European Blockchain Association provides an independent, neutral platform for blockchain-related communities and organizations to discuss, develop and elaborate on shared work.

Local startups: Iota Foundation develops an open-source protocol that supports data and value transfer between devices and humans, and BitsCrunch, a crypto-analytics company.

The Netherlands

Numbers: 160+ blockchain startups, $360.5 million (370 million euros) of raised funds.

Regulation and legislation: The central bank and the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) maintain a one-stop shop for regulatory information for startups called InnovationHub. There is also a regulatory sandbox for emerging technologies with a principles-based (rather than a rules-based) approach. Compliance is determined based on the intent of laws and regulations rather than their letter. A practice of partial authorizations, when a startup does not need to meet all the banking license criteria to obtain a license, is rather common.

Notable initiatives: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tymlez launched a project to support the government’s transparency in medical supply chains through blockchain technology. There are projects in agriculture such as Blockchain for Agri-food, financed by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to improve supply chains.

Community self-organization: The report mentions meetup groups such as Blockchain Talks, Blockchain Netherlands, Food Integrity Blockchained, Permissionless Society Blockchains and Bitcoin Wednesday Amsterdam, as well as Ethereum Dev NL and Hyperledger Netherlands.

Local players: Bitfury provides mobile Bitcoin mining data centers, Aurus, a gold-backed cryptocurrency on the Ethereum blockchain, and Finturi, a blockchain-powered trade finance platform.

Switzerland

Numbers: $247.48 billion (254 billion euros) of the total valuation of the top 50 companies in 2021, 877 blockchain solution providers.

Regulation and legislation: In 2019, the Federal Council updated the existing framework conditions in relation to…



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