Belgium's digital minister: EU plans to 'bring order to crypto' and create its own blockchain | The Crypto Mile

On this week's episode of The Crypto Mile, our host Brian McGleenon interviews Belgium's digital minister Mathieu Michel, who discusses the EU's plans to "bring order to crypto" and develop its own official, regulated blockchain. Michel emphasises the need for trust and regulation in the rapidly evolving crypto ecosystem and asserts that crypto should be viewed not merely as a currency, but as a document of value, a means to exchange value, credentials, property ownership, and a way to protect privacy. The conversation also covers the EU's MiCA (Markets in Crypto Assets) legislation, with Michel explaining that the new regulatory framework aims to strike a balance between innovation, security, and privacy without hindering progress. By establishing trust through clear, proactive regulatory guidelines, Michel believes MiCA can help Europe build a robust ecosystem and capitalise on the upcoming wave of web3 innovation. The EU is also focused on creating a safe investment environment and plans to develop concrete blockchain applications in 2024 with the creation of 'Europeum', a blockchain for Europe. This official blockchain will concentrate on the exchange of data related to the bloc's citizens, such as driving licenses, identity cards, and property deeds.

Video transcript

BRIAN MCGLEENON: On this week's episode of "The Crypto Mile," we speak to Belgium's Digital Minister Mathieu Michel to discuss the implications of MiCA, the Markets in Crypto Assets bill which will implement the EU's world-first framework for regulating crypto. And we'll also discuss europium, a smart contract blockchain for the bloc's member states that could store property ownership, driving licenses, and professional qualifications for every European citizen. Mathieu Michel, welcome to this week's episode of Yahoo Finance's "The Crypto Mile."

MATHIEU MICHEL: Thank you. I'm really pleased to meet you, Brian.

BRIAN MCGLEENON: We're very fortunate. Now, looking at MiCA, like GDPR and PSD2 before it, will MiCA become the global benchmark for crypto and digital asset regulation? And could it boost the next phase of this burgeoning industry?

MATHIEU MICHEL: I think that it can boost the cryptocurrency industry in Europe because Europeans are really strong to the regulation. And the purpose of our regulation is always to build trust, trust in innovation first also in the GDPR and the privacy. And so that's what we are doing.

We see that the crypto assets markets and the crypto ecosystem is really-- some can say it is evolving really fast. And we think that we must build trust in this kind of evolution just to be able to unleash the power that it represents. There are a lot of opportunities in the blockchain, the Web3 and the way we can exchange value in the digital world. But it has to be in a trusted ecosystem in a trusted way to see the exchanges. That's why MiCA, to my point of view, brings the opportunity to unleash the power of the crypto assets and the crypto exchanges. That's for sure.

BRIAN MCGLEENON: So what has been the negative responses within the EU towards MiCA?

MATHIEU MICHEL: One thing that's really problematic, I think, in the way some are identifying crypto is to think that cryptocurrency is in fact a currency. That's for sure. If you think that cryptocurrency is currency, that's a mistake. To my point of view, cryptocurrency may be a little bit seen as a Pokemon. That's something that has the value that you will give it to it. So that's not a currency. And that may be a bad way to identify the crypto assets.

We only see and a lot of people only see the cryptocurrency or the crypto assets as a financial tool. I see the crypto assets, the crypto market as the way we could exchange value, the way we could protect privacy. And that's why I think that it's a problem to only identify crypto economy around cryptocurrency because, of course, there was no regulation. That's a little bit the far West.

And that's why with MiCA, we can define things. We can bring more transparency. We can build trust for the companies but also for the customers. That's in fact how Europe is always bringing a little bit of order if it looks like the far West. It's by bringing trust through regulation. And the big challenge is always the same is to find the just balance between innovation, security, privacy but also be able of not restrain the power of innovation.

BRIAN MCGLEENON: Do you see MiCA as assisting the EU in taking the lead in the digitization of, say, capital markets financial services? And do you think that in time that could then lead to the EU, sort of, taking trade away from other financial hubs such as London?

MATHIEU MICHEL: MiCA was not built to defeat components-- competitors. MiCA was first built to unleash power innovation through trust. And in that way, yeah, it could help us to develop a strong ecosystem because we have a lot of talent in Europe which have understood that the next wave in innovation will be Web3. As soon as we will be able to have a safe framework, I think that for the company that will be a safe place to invest because yeah, far West can be fun, but it could be also dangerous.

BRIAN MCGLEENON: That brings us to the European blockchain service infrastructure and your concept about europium, which is, kind of, a take on the Ethereum blockchain. So could you describe what developments are there so far about this idea of having a blockchain for the entirety of Europe?

MATHIEU MICHEL: Yeah, as you mentioned, right now there are blockchain used but which are in fact private blockchain which are not regulated. You mentioned the digital wallet. I could mention the driving license or the way the driving license could inter-operate between countries or the identity cards, or the passport, or the title of property. We know that blockchain has a huge value in accompanying those kind of evaluation of the data.

I spoke about the fact that blockchain is building value. It's allowed to exchange value. The biggest value I think for me is the data, the data which concern yourself, the title of property or driver's license and so on. But if you want to have a safe exchange, if you speak about cybersecurity, if you speak about privacy, if you speak about yeah, the way we imagine those kind of exchange of data, I am convinced that it has to be on a regulated blockchain.

It's like building a regulated motorway to say, OK, we build the motorway. We build the roads, and under those roads there are applications like the driving license. And I think that's really important. For example, if you take Ethereum, Ethereum is completely clear and transparent. OK, that may be a good thing for some applications. But do you want your life to be exposed on Ethereum, anybody can know what you buy, when you buy it and so on?

So if we build-- that's why I think that EBSI is a good starting point, but that's a technical project right now. Another thing that as a European and probably for everybody, I think that we need to build some kind of political project about blockchain.

BRIAN MCGLEENON: This like blockchain for Europe idea, has there anything happened so far, or is it just still an idea, just still conceptual, or has there been any work done by the EU on it?

MATHIEU MICHEL: It has already begun. So the EBSI is a project which exists right now, but that's the beginning of something. There are some kinds of tiny applications trying to make some proof of concept. Belgium will have the European presidency in 2024. And one of my goal during the presidency will be to transform a technical project EBSI into political projects.

And so we are already working right now in Belgium and also with other countries on concrete application about blockchain. For example, we want to be in Belgium a pioneer as we speak about the digital wallet, the digital identity.

BRIAN MCGLEENON: Mathieu Michel, really exciting times for blockchain in Europe and also discussing the implementation of MiCA. Thank you so much for coming on this week's episode of "The Crypto Mile."

MATHIEU MICHEL: Thank you. That's a pleasure.