Cointelegraph spoke with Thanos Marinos, the founder of Greece’s only Bitcoin exchange, about the current debt crisis and Bitcoin’s surge in popularity in Greece and across the EU.
Thanos Marinos is the founder of BTCGreece, the country’s only Bitcoin exchange dedicated to Greek clients. Due to the current capital controls imposed in the country, BTCGreece is the only place, besides the single Bitcoin ATM in Athens, where Greeks can buy bitcoins at the moment.
“The demand [for Bitcoin] in the last 4 weeks has risen by 400%.”
- Thanos Marinos, BTCGreece Founder
Cointelegraph: Can you tell me about BTCGreece?
Thanos Marinos: We are the only exchange operating in Greece at the moment as the Greek banks are under capital controls. They cannot send money outside Greece and we hold a Greek bank account.
CT: Have you seen a huge spike in interest towards Bitcoin in the last few weeks?
TM: Yes, the demand in the last 4 weeks has risen by 400% and the number of newly registered customers by 600%.
CT: Can you describe what the situation is like on the ground in Greece?
TM: People are in shock as they never expected to have closed banks and at the same time risking being out of Eurozone and euro currency soon.
Public order is still in place but things are expected to become worse as soon as we move towards the referendum scheduled for Sunday. There are increasing voices that the government should withdraw the referendum.
“Don’t be surprised if the Greek government pulls out from the referendum and cancels it as a goodwill gesture towards the creditors.”
CT: The ‘No’ vote in the referendum is still leading in the polls but is losing steam due to the capital controls. What’s your prediction of what will happen on July 5?
TM: Prior to the referendum day, fear will help the ‘Yes’ movement.
Having said that, don’t be surprised if the Greek government pulls out from the referendum and cancels it as a goodwill gesture towards the creditors or even change their position from NO to YES (for a food deal that Greece will get).
CT: What does missing the IMF payment mean for the everyday situation in Greece?
TM: Honestly nothing yet. Nothing has changed apart from the psychological factor that bankruptcy is coming closer.
CT: Coinbase has said it has seen a 300% increase in people buying Bitcoin in Europe in the last few weeks. Can you comment on this?
TM: There has definitely been a rise. I wouldn’t like to comment on the numbers. It’s important to note though that at the moment Coinbase and any other exchange except BTCGreece cannot operate in Greece as banks are not making any outward payments due to capital controls.
“[…] the Greek government is already working on blockchain solutions […]”
CT: In retrospect, would Bitcoin have been a good hedge against capital controls and as a store of value for Greeks?
TM: That is exactly what we have seen the last 6 weeks from our Greek clients.
CT: That they have been buying in preparation?
TM: Yes correct. The deadline of June 30 has worked and many Greeks bought prior the capital controls being imposed. Now we are the only exchange that can sell to Greeks
CT: Have you seen people using the one Bitcoin ATM in Athens?
TM: They are not using it because if they have cash, they keep it since they need it for day-to-day use as capital controls allow only 60 Euros withdrawal per day. It’s a one way BTM.
CT: Is there anything else you might want to say about Bitcoin and the situation in Greece? Do you see it as a viable option? If so, in what use cases and why?
TM: I believe in bitcoin as a currency and as the biggest technological innovation of our days. It’s important to note that the Greek government is already working on blockchain solutions and there are people on the ground trying to introduce blockchain solution projects to the Greek economy. One good example is Drachmaeconnect.com targeting the tourism sector, one of the main industries in Greece.