The European Commission Loves Blockchain’s Transparency – Except for When It Doesn’t

Government officials can’t seem to make their minds up about bitcoin. Politicians like the underlying technology, they are prone to insist, but aren’t sure about the cryptocurrency itself, which is used by criminals to launder money, they reiterate. In as many weeks, European Commission-affiliated groups have issued two seemingly contradictory statements on the matter. Either bitcoin and its accompanying blockchain are tools for money laundering or they are tools for providing accountability and auditability. Which is true?

Blockchain Good, Bitcoin Bad

On February 1, the European Commission (EC) launched its Blockchain Observatory and Forum in Brussels. The programme is designed to “highlight key developments of the blockchain technology, promote European actors and reinforce European engagement with multiple stakeholders involved in blockchain activities.” A press release quotes Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip as saying: “Technologies like blockchain can help reduce costs while increasing trust, traceability and security.”

The 900-word press release makes no mention of bitcoin or cryptocurrency, which is quite an achievement given that blockchain would not exist were it not for the invention of decentralized currencies. The EC isn’t obligated to shout out bitcoin while extolling the benefits of blockchain technology of course, and the very fact that Europe’s primary legislative body is throwing its might behind distributed ledger technology bodes well.

A Money Launderer’s Paradise?

Last week, news.Bitcoin.com reported on a workshop hosted by EU law enforcement unit Europol. Its theme revolved around drawing up measures to combat money laundering associated with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. We wrote:

In the statement issued following the event, Europol has claimed that the adoption of cryptocurrencies for criminal purposes, including terrorist financing, is rising. In order to combat the allegedly growing threat, Europol announced that it will “continue to coordinate across EU Member States and beyond in an endeavor to effectively respond to this rising threat.”

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