The European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) is to hold a public hearing to discuss virtual currencies on Monday, January 25th 2016. The European Parliament is the directly elected legislative body of the European Union (EU), the world’s largest economy.
The hearing will discuss the role of legislators and other public institutions, the benefits and drawbacks of virtual currencies, and the underlying risks in using the crypto-technologies among other things.
The panellists for the public hearing will include representatives from the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), academia and stakeholders from the private sector including EDCAB, the European Digital Currency and Blockchain Technology Forum.
Cointelegraph approached Sian Jones, the founder of EDCAB, who is one of the three private sector stakeholder representatives to address the Committee on Monday, to get some background information on the public hearing and what to expect from it.
Cointelegraph: What can cryptocurrency enthusiasts around the world expect from this public hearing?
Sian Jones: I doubt there will be any short term implications arising from the public hearing. The deliberations will take time and publication of the report is likely to take a few months. The longer term outcome will certainly take many months; quite probably years. I am hopeful European legislators will continue their long track record of prudent evaluation and management of risk while encouraging innovation and support for the digital economy.
CT: Recently People's Bank of China had announced its plan to develop its own digital currency, do you think that Europe will also consider a plan to start its own virtual currency with a centralised authority?
SJ: It is no secret that the European Central Bank is studying the possibility of issuing a Euro-based digital currency. Other central banks including the Bank of England and the Fed are doing something similar for their currencies.
CT: Do you think that the trust in existing cryptocurrencies will increase when influential organisations like the European Union and IMF start talking about virtual currencies?
SJ: All active discussion and debate by policy-makers, legislators, and national and multinational organisations helps to bring virtual currencies into the mainstream and with appropriate safeguards, to strengthen trust and confidence in them.
CT: The hearing in the European Parliament is to consider the role to be played by legislators and public institutions among other things. Is there even any role that governments or legislation have to play in virtual currencies? Isn't the absence of a central authority (or any third party at all) what defined cryptocurrencies in the first place?
SJ: Everything we do in life is governed by the laws of the jurisdictions in which we live and conduct business. Whatever the ideology that gave birth to cryptocurrencies, it is unrealistic to believe policy-makers, legislators, regulators, and law enforcement will ignore their responsibilities concerning public policy (such as anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing), consumer protection, prudential oversight, and financial and price stability.
CT: What has been the general attitude of people and governments in the European Union towards virtual currencies especially Bitcoin? How likely is it to change following this public hearing?
SJ: The public hearing is part of a process of preparing a report of the influential Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. It remains to be seen what the final report will say and what, if any, recommendations are proposed. The outcome may involve legislation or it may suggest ‘waiting and see’; it is likely to be some while before public opinion is affected.
CT: Is there anything else that you would like to comment on this event and its effects on the cryptocurrency space?
SJ: European policy-makers and legislators have a track-record of careful and balanced consideration of the impact of innovation that takes into account benefits as well as risks. In the long run, this leads to better outcomes for European citizens and businesses.