May 29, 2024

Robert Koplitsch, Secretary General at Blockchain for Europe, joins CoinDesk Live at Consensus 2024 with insights on the state of global digital assets regulation and what the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) framework means for crypto adoption in Europe.

Video transcript

Joining us now is the Secretary General of Blockchain for Europe Robert Koch. Robert. Welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Ok, Robert, we were just taking a look at our little consensus ad there and we saw Lefty the, I don't know if it was a Lama or Alpaca. I think, I think it was a L Lefty the llama. Ok. From last year, one of my highlights. And you remember Lefty? No, the llama. You remember the llama? Actually, it's nice because you know, we were standing there and uh my deputy is a big llama fan and uh he has a tattoo on his arm because it's his totem animal and he was so excited. And I was like, yeah, ok, let's do the Instagram story and get over with and it was great. People loved it and you should have more animals here. Right. I agree. We should have more animals here. Maybe we'll find like a little puppy pen or something that we can have at consensus. I feel like it would really help people she's running around. We can have it all come, come for the in depth conversation. Stay for the cute and cuddly animals. All right, we're gonna start talking about regulation in just a second. But I, I gotta get your thoughts. You've been to consensus before. How are you feeling? We're just kicking off 2024 actually. Great. I mean, my first consensus was still in New York. So it was a bit of a different experience. It was more, I don't want to say old school, but New York is, you know, a bit different than Austin. And since then, you could really see that the consensus always moved with the market. So, you know, last year was a bit less enthusiastic and the year before was amazing. I think this year will be amazing. Again, there's a lot of positive vibe, uh a lot of things happening and adoption and regulation coming out. Uh you know, like, so legal certainty will be there companies will be happy. I think at least in Europe, I think in the US, you also made some progress now, you know, it's all good. No, that's a great segue though, you know, uh the marketing crypto assets regulatory framework is coming into effect this year. What are you expecting? What are you seeing from companies and businesses that are trying to gear up for this? Um expectation are from super high to disastrous. Uh There's a big uh uh range from that depending on the angle you take, right? I mean, the regulation itself generates a lot of legal certainty for the market. So it's a real opportunity to set up shop in Europe, you know, open up a business and be sure that what you do is legally savvy and enables you to grow. Right? That's the key element of it. On the other side, there is always a question of how the regulators will implement it. And you know, the European Union has 27 member states and not every country is equally savvy on crypto. I mean, it's the same like in the States in the US, right? I mean, there is a difference between, but, uh, I don't want to name and shame many states, but there's differences in the States and the same is in Europe. And if you're local in one place where the regulators are a bit more conservative, it might be a bit more difficult to, you know, get things going. But I think overall most of the companies will set up in a handful of countries and uh once Mica is in place, right? So the stable coins, uh part will go into force in end of June and the rest end of the year and then you will have uh se rules which are not perfect, but I think a great starting point, right? I mean, no regulation ever was perfect. But uh you need to start from somewhere and uh us as an industry player, we will keep working on improving that and it all depends on, you know, the innovators in the space. And that's why we're also here, you know, to talk to them to see what they care, what they look for, why it matters. And uh and then hopefully go back to Europe and tell our policy makers to adjust over time. So, so on those adjustments, um the eu elections are in just over a week. Um Are there any expectations that, you know, either people who get re-elected or new officials who get elected might look to modify or update. Uh you know, the 27 member, you know, framework before the individual nations do or just what are you expecting from the elections? I mean, I love that question because I have a very strong view on that. There's a lot of change coming and the last parliament was more center left leaning, which traditionally is more focused on social issues, consumer protection climate, which is not a bad thing, right? But when it comes to innovation, business, hes they always vary much on the cautious side. So there are consumer protection first and then let's see if there is a place for innovation. Parliament will move a bit to the right, which on some issues is not so great to be honest. But when it comes to business and fintech and crypto, I think it will be good because there is more open mindedness and there will be more young parliamentarians coming in that already are used to wallets and crypto and stable coins and all these things. So the discussions will be different and hopefully better. So I think the opportunity for the industry to actually move this needle towards a more positive future is very much there. And an opportunity I might be completely wrong though. Right. And they're all electing old dudes and that all want all central banking and um and we all fucked, but, you know, I'm an optimist. Oh yeah, we'll have to, we'll have to wait and see, talk to me about uh getting everyone to work together on the drafting, the passing and now the implementation of Mica. It sounds like it, it would have been a challenging feat. Oh Jesus, yeah, we had uh 200 plus meetings with policy makers in those two years. And uh I remember one day where um we got the draft of the Bitcoin Ban in the parliament and I was in the Dubai Expo Saturday evening and uh they asked me like, hey, what do you think about it? Like, it's terrible. We have to get rid of it, which we then ultimately did. But, you know, like I actually was on holidays in the evening with my family and uh that's not the way you want to spend your time on, to be honest, but, you know, we did and I think we did a great job. The only thing that uh was probably not, it turned out not to be as good as uh it should have been as the ST the stablecoins bit simply because everybody was, that big tech comes in and takes over the banking cake. And that's why they are very harsh on stablecoins in comparison to a lot of other places doesn't mean that this won't change, especially as the digital Euro will take some time and there's a gap now and somebody needs to fill the gap. So maybe they turn a blind eye and say like, ok, let, let them go until we have a digital Euro or it will be just an unknown situation where, you know, Teta won't be there in Europe because it's not me a compliant and some others might be also gone. And uh yeah, the process was great because it was a collaborative effort and there was a lot of excitement in certain parts of the parliament and the commission because they knew what it could change what it brings and the opportunities. But it was, it was a huge uphill battle um with certain groups and certain mindsets and uh because you know what, we don't know, we're afraid of most of the time and we spend a lot of time to take away the fear. And I think overall it went quite well, but you know, some stuff we can't control, right, like uh FTX uh Terra Lua. And uh luckily Terra Lua happened after Mia was adopted otherwise it probably would look different. And um yeah, so, yeah, but it was exciting, I think, a great process and it was a big fight to literally the last minute. So when the Trilogue ended, and the French ambassador said, like, thank you. That's it. Uh A minute before I made some, some decisions on NFTS which nobody knew about and they just went into law and that was it, right. So it was, uh it was quite a, quite a run, like I've been saying all morning, we are talking to other governments uh regulators on the show this morning trying to get inside the minds of what's going on and in different regions around the world, are you following uh regulation in different parts of the world? Is there any particular region that you're watching that you think is, is doing things uh progressively? I mean, we actually follow all the regions some more, some less. I mean, you always have to follow the US simply because when there's a global level to all of this, then normally the US and the UC together and discuss. And uh the irony is that most of the time when you see what the US is doing on a global level is the contradiction to what they do at home. They just force it basically on everybody else. Then people are pissed off and uh and then they look at the US and like guys, why are you not implementing any of this? Like, yeah, we thought it's a bad idea. It's like, yeah, we knew that but we still did it. And um and we also look at a lot in the Middle East, there's uh some positive developments there and then obviously the big jurisdictions, right? The UK still somehow relevant Switzerland to an extent, Japan, Singapore and also what the Chinese are doing, right? It's more like a monitoring. I mean, there's not much engagement going on there, but Hong Kong, for example, is quite interesting. And um and the next piece that will be particularly interesting for the rest of us is probably what's happening in Africa, right? Because they have a huge issue with the foreign currency there. So CBD C stable coins, that stuff that's highly toxic. I would even say when you look at Nigeria for example, but on the other side, the adoption in those markets is just huge, right? And if you go to South America or Africa and it's a great use case, right? Because in the West, people always asking so what's the use case of crypto? And because we have those payments, infrastructures and uh banks and all these things and then when you look at people live abroad or especially in emerging markets and it's just normal to them, right? It's like everybody uses it uh under a certain age and and I think that's something that slowly moves into the mindset of the Europeans and the and the Americans probably as well. Robert, thank you so much. For joining our programming this morning. That was the Secretary General of Blockchain for Europe, Robert Kit.

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