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Europe in Emphatic Commitment to Blockchain

The European Commission receives desired outcome as blockchain technology is favoured by EU Member States.

By April Slattery

Throwing their weight firmly behind blockchain technology, 22 European countries joined a new European Blockchain Partnership following a meeting in Brussels yesterday.

Committing a further €300 million to the technology, the European Commission (EC)’s Mariya Gabriel boldly proclaimed: “In future, all public services will use blockchain technology. Blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe to rethink their information systems

The Bulgaria-born Commissioner of Digital Economy and Society was speaking at “Digital Day 18”, a one-day event that brought together high-level stakeholders in digital technology. The UK, Germany, France, Spain and Poland were among those joining the partnership, which aims to create an enabling environment for blockchain-based services across Europe.

The Commission has already invested €80 million into distributed ledger projects and in February 2018 launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum.

Other existing blockchain projects financed by the EU include

The further investment aims to boost the partnership to create an enabling environment to help services using blockchain flourish across Europe.

Blockchain for Business

European blockchain businesses responded enthusiastically.

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“Blockchain already shows great promise in fixing decade-old problems of the digital business age where existing technology can’t, such as building transparency and trust in eCommerce payment processes and supply chains,” Chris Painter, CO of UK-based Omnitude told Computer Business Review.

“This EC’s Blockchain Partnership creates a big opportunity for Europe to establish itself as global leaders in one of the most important innovations of this decade. By creating a platform for blockchain experts to cooperate and share expertise with governments, hopefully a regulatory and industry-wide framework can be made that allows blockchain technology to prove its worth much faster. Once this is in place, businesses and societies all across Europe stand to benefit immensely.”

A topic of discussion during the keynote was the use of blockchain and protection of data, especially with GDPR on the horizon, but can it be a trusted transaction technology?

“Blockchain has the potential to completely transform transport and supply chain practice and financing, and the technology is gaining considerable interest due to it offering a secure, immutable and tamper-proof distributed ledger,” Martin Barker, Finance Director of TGMatrix, said in a statement.

“Once a block of data has been recorded it is there in perpetuity, for all users to refer to. Information can be added but can’t be deleted retrospectively, and because the chain doesn’t reside on just one party’s systems, no single player ‘owns’ the chain. Everybody in a transaction can trust the data, rather than having to ‘trust’ an individual or organisation.”

Public Services and Privacy

Others struck a cautionary note: “Right now, putting public services on blockchain is a security risk,” Michael Smolenski, CEO of Lightstreams, told Computer Business Review.

“There needs to be a separation between private and public data, with private data not stored on a blockchain at all. Instead, private and confidential data should only be stored de-centrally on the devices that have been explicitly approved by the data owner, that is, those they have granted permission to. Because we shouldn’t forget that once published on the blockchain, that data can be read by anyone, anywhere.”

Yet operating with blockchain-based technology allows European member states to share experience and expertise in technical and regulatory fields; something that supports the ongoing push for a Digital Single Market across the EU. Commissioners hope the move will mean Europe can play a leading role in the development of new blockchain technologies.

“The European tech sector identifies AI and blockchain as the areas where Europe is best positioned to play a leading role. However, it is no secret that we have to invest – both politically and financially,” Andrus Ansip, EC Vice President, said during his keynote speech. He added: “I would like to see blockchain technologies… moving out of the lab and going mainstream.”

 

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