EurActiv, an EU news and policy website, is reporting that France is taking a lead in trying to get the European Union (EU) to look into Bitcoin and virtual currency.
French Minister for Economy and Finance, Pierre Moscovici, said:
“This is an imperative topic to be treated not only at national level but also at European level. In order to ensure this necessary convergence, I intend to request the other countries of the European Union to bring the topic on the agenda of the Ecofin Council.”
Ecofin is the Economic and Financial Affairs Council of the EU which brings together ministers from members states on such policy related matters.
France had already imposed its own mini form of regulation for those buying and selling bitcoins against the euro. They require approval from the national authority for payment services since the transfer of legal tender is at stake. Beyond this, there is nothing else they can do at this point. The bank of France has acknowledged that Bitcoin is:
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“neither a legal currency, nor a means of payment […] like virtual currencies, the Bitcoin does not fall directly within the scope of supervision and surveillance of competent authorities in payment issues.”
The next best shot at regulation anywhere has been Ben Lawsky’s active research into the area and consideration of something like a “Bitlicense”. Even there, the initiative is solely at the state level.
The Bank of France has highlighted the drawbacks of Bitcoin much to the same degree as other major economies have.
The open-ended and elementary nature of the request to “take up the issue” is reflective of cryptocurrency’s awkward nature when it comes to legal recognition and regulation. Here, the tone is one where lawmakers simply do not know how to approach the subject, not necessarily out of a lack of knowledge but more out of the curve ball thrown by cryptocurrency’s unique nature. Governments around the world don’t seem to be much further along even after many had initiated research into the issue well before the EU.
The absence of clarity on the issue has gone both ways: few countries have been able to ban Bitcoin outright while others have slapped varying restrictions on its use. At the same time, there has been virtually no official protection granted to its users.