Malta, the small European island country off the coast of Italy, has unveiled a national strategy to fully embrace blockchain technology and digital currencies like bitcoin. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated:
“We must be on the frontline in embracing blockchain and Bitcoin…we must be the ones that others copy.” He further added that “this is not just about Bitcoin, and I also look forward to seeing blockchain technology implemented in the Lands Registry and the national health registries. Malta can be a global trail-blazer in this regard.”
The small island nation is a popular destination for tourists and gambling companies with reports stating that Malta is Europe’s gambling hub. The embrace of blockchain tech and digital currencies could give them an added edge in their competitive industries as bitcoins or eth can easily move cross-borders without requiring any permission or intermediary.
Joseph Cuschieri, executive chairman of Malta’s Gaming Authority, welcomed the speech and further stated that plans will be announced regarding the use of digital currencies in the gambling context, as well as plans for a “national betting exchange where bets can be hedged,” according to maltatoday.
Malta is part of the European Union which sets some of its laws. The continent has some 500 million generally rich citizens, but has been largely overshadowed in this space. While UK has shown great regulatory foresight and an innovative attitude, the Chinese citizens have flocked to digital currencies and Americans keep pleading with their regulators to become more “responsible,” EU has largely been ignored.
That may be because some of the laws and discussions coming from there are worse than even America’s. There were speculations, for example, they would set up a registry of all bitcoin users – a sufficiently nonsensical idea that was just simply ignored.
Commentators, therefore, have focused more on national policies, with UK gaining most of the attention as well as, to a far lesser degree, Switzerland due to hosting the Crypto Valley while showing some foresight in having the first locality in the world to accept bitcoin payments for public services.
Not much is coming out from Germany, France, Italy or Spain. Language barriers might be one explanation, but they usually tend to speak English, especially the more educated Europeans. Malta has called on them to lead and for EU to become the “Bitcoin continent.” Muscat says:
“I understand that regulators are wary of this technology but the fact is that it’s coming. We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation, and we cannot just wait for others to take action and copy them. We must be the ones that others copy.”
They’ll have to move very fast if they wish to achieve that aim because they have some catching up to do. Moreover, they need to persuade EU level regulators to change their tone if they wish to be given any attention and be placed within a strategic picture for the harnessing of this technology.
A picture that is currently very much dominated by USA, UK, and China. America has the talent and money, UK brilliantly grabbed the opportunity to lead in 2014 while China has Shenzhen, a manufacturing hub that could become the IoT capital of the world.
EU is more fragmented, failing to provide a coherent picture on how it will fit within what some are calling an upcoming industrial revolution. Germany’s energy giant, RWE, is looking to apply blockchain tech and wider IoT technology towards energy, car charging stations and perhaps cars themselves. Moreover, the country could certainly become a leader in IoT, but they are very much being overshadowed by what appears to be a very negative view from the EU level regulators.