The United States is not the only industrialized nation to be holding hearings concerning the impact of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on the various aspects of society. The Italian Parliament began the hearings on the issue on 11 June, 2011. The hearings are expected to include testimony from law makers, international cryptocurrency experts, economists and members of the Italian and international law enforcement. While began on Wednesday of this last week they are expected to hear a great deal of testimony.

Unfortunately this process will likely have to be repeated in most nations before cryptocurrencies are accepted there. There are a number of reasons for this but the most common is that Bitcoin is not a regional currency and many of its aspects are either not covered under local regional regulations or, in the case of Europe, contradictions between EU policies still outweigh possible benefits to local economies for acceptance. The EU still seems to be quite a ways from being comfortable with the concept of cryptocurrencies and has even issued a “warning” about the potential dangers and statement that these currencies present if they are not regulated.

The legal situation in Italy surrounding Bitcoin and other virtual currencies has been murky, although some businesses are accepting the coins and at least one Bitcoin ATM, located in Udine, the heart of Italy’s wine country, has been installed. But the owner of that ATM has spoken about how difficult it was to obtain the necessary clearances.

The Italian stance, according to, is very similar to the stance taken by the EU. While not openly hostile it warns consumers that these currencies do not fall under regulations and can be risky. Their assessment of the law is that:

“The use of electronic currency is restricted to banks and electronic money institutions — that is, private legal entities duly authorized and registered by the Central Bank of Italy. Aside from these developments, Italy does not regulate Bitcoin use by private individuals, and currently the implementation of initiatives concerning the use of electronic currencies lies with the EU.”

But the hearings suggest that regulation is currently on the way and this may be a strong step for the rest of Europe as well. Bitcoin is not generally treated in a hostile manner by European legislators but most of them seem reluctant to get involved, especially in any way that seems to promote the new economic paradigm. Some accept and tax it as assets or even commodities, but few yet consider it a currency and some, such as Cyprus, have been specific in saying that cryptocurrencies cannot be considered “legal tender”. The only European country that is openly hostile, forbidding domestic entities from dealing in Bitcoin, is Iceland, but this seems to be a part of their overall economic overhaul after the banking purges a few years ago.

But the hearings are currently underway in Rome and it will most likely be several weeks before they conclude testimony and some time after that before potential legislation is introduced. The EU has already made it known that the decision will be left to the individual nations and, if the majority concur it might consider alignment. If the bulk of nations either fail to address the issue, or outright reject cryptocurrencies then the European Union will not be likely to overrule them.