The European Council asked the European Commission “to strengthen controls of … electronic/anonymous payments, money remittances [and] virtual currencies, … in line with the risk they present and to curb more effectively the illicit trade in cultural goods”, a week after the Paris attacks of November 2015. It’s still not entirely clear when or how the Commission will respond.
In the meantime, the European Parliament is carrying out an own initiative investigation of its own. The Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs heard evidence from experts on Monday 25 January 2016. Jakob von Weizsäcker, a member of the Committee, and a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament, is now expected to prepare a report. The report is likely to focus on two immediate issues:
- Is regulation necessary? Many of the experts giving evidence to the Committee seem to have taken the view that regulation is necessary, but only from an anti-money laundering and terrorist financing point of view; and
- If so, are our governments and legislators up the task? As MEP Jakob von Weizsäcker puts it: “There are many investors out there who have very high hopes that a particular [digital or virtual currency] application [or blockchain] technology will be what they call a ‘killer application’. The real question is if and when one of these breakthroughs comes, how well are we prepared as governments, as legislators for that kind of revolution.”
The Committee is expected to vote on Jakob von Weizsäcker’s report in April, before the Parliament is invited to vote on it at a plenary session, probably in May. If the Parliament adopts the report, it will be sent to the Commission, and it could form part of the Commission’s response to the Council.