EU Antitrust Regulators to Rule on Microsoft Acquisition of GitHub by Mid-October

E.U. antitrust regulators will decide whether to clear Microsoft’s acquisition of hosting service GitHub by October 19.

Software giant Microsoft has requested European Union (E.U.) approval of its $7.5 billion acquisition of web-based hosting service GitHub, Reuters reported September 17. According to Reuters, Microsoft filed the request last Friday, and the decision will be made by October 19.

GitHub is an open-source coding website, a repository which hosts developers’ source code projects in a number of different programming languages and keeps track of any changes made. In 2017, the GitHub community reportedly reached 24 million developers, working with 67 million repositories.

With the acquisition, the company is looking to strengthen its cloud computing arm against American electronic commerce company Amazon. If the E.U. competition agency finds serious concerns regarding the acquisition, it can initiate a full-scale investigation.

Many users from the crypto community expressed concern that, following the acquisition, Microsoft would issue undue discretion regarding what was allowed to be posted on GitHub, with some suggesting a move to GitLab. Bitcoin core developer Wladimir Van der Laan tweeted:

In response to GitHub users apprehension that the portal would eventually favor Microsoft products, Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella reportedly said that GitHub will continue to operate as an open platform that deals with all public clouds.

Last month, Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure introduced a proof-of-authority (PoA) algorithm on its Ethereum (ETH) blockchain product, which will allow a “more efficient” way of building decentralized applications (DApps) for private or consortium networks, where “all consensus participants are known and reputable.”

In May, Amazon’s cloud computing arm Amazon Web Services (AWS) partnered with ConsenSys’ blockchain startup Kaleido to bring simplified blockchain cloud platforms to its clients. Kaleido is an ETH blockchain-based business cloud that provides businesses with ready-made blockchain applications.

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France Finalizes New ICO Framework to ‘Attract Innovators Globally’

The French government has approved a legal framework for ICOs made to protect contributors.

France’s Minister for the Economy and Finance has announced that the government has accepted an article of the Business Growth and Transformation bill (PACTE) dedicated to Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), according to a tweet posted Wednesday, September 12.

As finance Minister Bruno Le Maire states, the French stock markets regulator Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) is now empowered to give licenses to companies that want to raise funds via an ICO, with the legislation aiming to help protect contributors’ interests.

Le Maire also hopes that the current legal framework for ICOs in France will “attract investors from all over the world.”

According to the PACTE project published by the National Assembly (lower party of the French parliament), prior to any token issuances, a company must apply for a license from the AMF providing detailed information on the offer and issuer. The measures will provide additional guarantees for ICOs, which AMF had previously considered risky.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has historically been bullish on emerging innovative technologies, last year proposing to convert France into a “startup nation.” Later in 2018, in line with Macron’s words, Le Maire introduced his PACTE bill, which aims to transform and innovate the French economy, in March stating France was ready for a “blockchain revolution”.

This year, France has also seen changes in rules surrounding crypto taxation, though in a more stringent direction. As Cointelegraph reported in May, the French Council of State clarified the specifics of Bitcoin taxation in France to move the tax for Bitcoin trading from a progressive taxation (between 14 and 45 percent) to a fixed taxation of 19 percent.

In terms of the wider European context, as Cointelegraph reported earlier this month, European Parliament members held a meeting with blockchain experts on ICO regulation in early September.

Later Belgian think tank Bruegel released a report that called for unified legislation on cryptocurrencies in the EU and more scrutiny on how they were distributed to investors.

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European Central Bank: ‘No Plans’ for Digital Currency, Cash Demand Growing

The European Central Bank is not planning on issuing its own digital currency under current conditions, President Mario Draghi has confirmed.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has “no plans” to issue its own digital currency, President Mario Draghi told the European Parliament Wednesday, September 12.

Addressing a query by MEP Jonás Fernández, Draghi said “substantial development” was still needed in the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies before the Central Bank would consider using them.

“The ECB and the Eurosystem currently have no plans to issue a central bank digital currency,” he summarized:

“Nonetheless, we are carefully analysing the potential consequences of issuing such a currency as a complement to cash.”

Explaining why no plans were afoot at the ECB, Draghi drew attention to those same factors.

“…The technologies which could potentially be used to issue a central bank digital currency […] have not yet been thoroughly tested and require substantial further development before they could be used in a central bank context,” he told Fernández, adding:

“With regard to the central bank administering individual accounts for households and companies, this would imply that the central bank would enter into competition for retail deposits with the banking sector and lead to potentially substantial operational costs and risks.”

He added there was at present “no concrete need” to issue an additional currency within the eurozone, saying demand for cash banknotes “continues to grow” in the EU28.

Draghi continues the wary stance the 28-member bloc has traditionally held on bank-issued cryptocurrency, in contrast to moves by countries such as Russia and China.

Earlier this year, a joint report from the ECB and Bank for International Settlements (BIS) highlighted “side effects” of a potential launch of such a currency, also considering the need for more research beforehand.

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Crypto ‘Here to Stay’ but Needs Classification, Says European Commission Vice President

The E.U. will focus on crypto classification and “regulatory mapping,” since crypto is “here to stay,” according to the European Commission’s Vice President.

The European Union (E.U.) will focus on the development of crypto asset classification and regulatory mapping, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis claimed at a recent meeting of Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) in Vienna.

According to Dombrovskis, crypto assets are “here to stay,” and the crypto market still “continues to grow” despite “recent turbulence.”

The Commissioner claimed that, in order to address major issues around cryptocurrencies, the E.U. will focus on the main challenge that is how to “categorize and classify” crypto assets this year. He also stated that the organization will consider whether existing E.U. financial regulation can be applied, or if there is rather a need to develop new rules.

As Dombrovskis stressed, the Commission has already teamed up with European Supervisory Authorities in order to develop a so-called “regulatory mapping” of crypto assets to provide a “solid ground” to establish the status of cryptocurrencies, as well as to set up “further steps in this area.”

In his speech Dombrovskis paid special attention to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), characterizing them as a “viable form of alternative financing,” and pointing out that ICOs generated $6 billion last year. Dombrovskis further emphasized that “this figure will be substantially bigger” in 2018.

Concerning other problems in the field, Dombrovskis mentioned the major risks of crypto, including “lack of transparency,” protecting investors, market integrity, as well as money laundering, fraud, and hacking.

In this regard, the Latvian politician suggested the need to keep monitoring the dynamics of the industry, stressing the importance of cooperation with global partners at the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and G20.

This summer, the FSB claimed that crypto assets do not pose any material risk to global financial stability, while the sphere still needs in-depth monitoring due to rapid market development.

On September 5, Cointelegraph reported that Belgian think tank Bruegel released a report calling for E.U.-level unified legislation on cryptocurrencies, and more regulation for ICOs.

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Switzerland First in Ranking of Top 10 Most Blockchain-Friendly Countries in Europe

BlockShow’s rankings of the best European countries for opening a blockchain company puts Switzerland at the top of the list.

Switzerland is ranked number one in a list of the top ten European countries for starting a blockchain company, according to a study released by blockchain conference BlockShow Europe 2018.

In the list of best countries for starting a blockchain company, Gibraltar and Malta follow Switzerland in second and third respectively. The study consisted of 48 European countries that were examined for rankings by Initial Coin Offering (ICO) regulations, regulations on crypto as a payment service, and taxation frameworks for crypto.

Switzerland is known as a crypto-friendly nation due to both its establishment of a virtual currency hub, “crypto valley,” in Zug and its status as a tax-free haven for crypto investors. Gibraltar has reportedly attracted 200 ICOs before the planned launch of its Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX), and Malta, the “blockchain island,” has welcomed major crypto exchanges Binance and OKEx recently.

BlockShow also released a poll this week on blockchain-based app Polys that allows users to vote on the leading women and companies in the EU blockchain space. The winners of the poll will be announced during the BlockShow conference at the end of this month in Berlin.

At the beginning of February, the European Commission announced the launch of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum as part of their aim to unite the economy around blockchain. However, more recently, newly approved EU privacy laws – which come into effect on May 25 – arguably conflict with the decentralized nature of blockchain technology.

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Bitcoin Legitimized in EU Following New KYC Regulations

Bitcoin is set to find new legitimacy in the European Union as member states agreed to force cryptocurrency exchanges within its jurisdiction to collect identification data on their users in an effort to prevent money laundering.  Legitimizing Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency in the EU Both cryptocurrency exchanges and online wallets operating in the European Union’s jurisdiction are now required to carry out the exact same know-your-customer (KYC) checks as traditional banks. The regulatory move comes as the

The post Bitcoin Legitimized in EU Following New KYC Regulations appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.

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European Central Bank’s Mersch Says Banks Should ‘Segregate’ Crypto Trading

The European Central Bank’s Yves Mersch stated that banks should “segregate” their dealings in cryptocurrencies from other activities, saying crypto doesn’t “qualify” as money

European Central Bank (ECB) board member Yves Mersch has said that banks should “segregate” their dealings in cryptocurrencies from other activities, Reuters reported May 14.

Reuters quotes Mersch as raising concerns over the high volatility of crypto markets, emphasizing that digital tokens “do not qualify as money,” and that their issuers, as well as dealers, exchanges, banks, or clearing houses, should be regulated.

Mersch reportedly noted that even at its peak market capitalization in January 2018 –  which Mersch mistakenly reports as $432 bln rather than the actual $800 bln – the crypto market is still too small to threaten financial stability. He said however that if cryptocurrencies were to be used as collateral for bank loans or for settling trades at clearing houses, there would be an argument for such activities being “ring-fenced” from other trading and investments.

As Reuters notes, the European banks regulated by ECB are not currently dealing in crypto. In the US, investment banking giant Goldman Sachs recently announced it would be opening a crypto trading desk “within weeks.”

ECB’s Yves Mersch has been a staunch critic of the increasing interconnection of the traditional financial sector with the cryptocurrency space, saying that cryptocurrencies pose a risk of “contagion and contamination of the existing financial system” in February this year.

Notwithstanding Mersch’s concerns – that are shared by others such as the Bank of International Settlements’ (BIS) Augustín Carstens – the ECB’s Chair of the Supervisory Board Daniele Nouy told CNBC in February that future involvement of the ECB in cryptocurrency regulation was likely to be “very, very low”.

In March, ECB and BIS issued a statement on Bitcoin, as well as central bank-issued digital currencies (CBDCs), saying they are “not the answer to the cashless economy.”

ECB has however championed blockchain’s potential for transforming securities settlements, against the backdrop of the European Commission’s Blockchain Observatory, which aims at “uniting” the European economy around the technology.

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