Last week, one of the most interesting topics of debate in the Bitcoin community was how the future of this disruptive virtual currency allegedly lies in Europe. While Europe has several things going for it as far as Bitcoin is concerned, there is no real reason why this part of the world favors Bitcoin more than anywhere else. In fact, there is a severe lack of Bitcoin educational efforts in Europe, not to mention the very low number of conferences taking place on the continent.
Advantages for Bitcoin in Europe
Coming up with a list of advantages and disadvantages utterly depends on which glass you are looking through. If you see the glass as half-empty, Bitcoin has no great future in any region right now. Looking at things through a half-full glass may overestimate the potential of Bitcoin in certain parts of the world.
Compared to the United States, Europe is keeping a “laissez-faire” attitude towards regulation Bitcoin and virtual currency for the time being. While taxation is possible in certain European countries, there is no official regulatory framework in place. It may take many years until proper Bitcoin regulation comes into effect as far as Europe is concerned. Whether or not this is an advantage or a disadvantage, remains to be seen.
Make no mistake about it: just because countries allow Bitcoin to operate without pre-defined borders doesn’t make Europe a safe haven for Bitcoin usage. Despite legislative clarity in most countries, the ruling could change at any given time, thus creating a regulatory framework all countries in the European Union will have to adhere to.
For Bitcoin companies, there is a possibility to not only operate outside of the existing regulatory framework, but also receive grants from the local governments. This will help research and development, as well as pay for recurring bills. Most Bitcoin startups struggle to make ends meet in the first few years, so these government grants could have a major positive impact on their business models.
Keeping in mind how Bitcoin is exempt from Value Added Taxes (VAT) in most European countries, one could argue how European countries see Bitcoin as an opportunity. While it is certainly true that Bitcoin can stimulate economies in both banked and underbanked parts of the world, there is nearly no impact on the European economy to speak of so far.
Touching upon the subject of Bitcoin startups once again, the European counterparts are often overlooked in favor of companies launching in the US and Asia. To put this into perspective, roughly 25% of the Bitcoin ecosystem has a foothold in Europe. A very strange trend, especially considering the “loose” regulation for Bitcoin companies on this continent.
Lack of Bitcoin Educational Efforts in Europe to Blame?
Living in Europe myself, one of the most worrying trends is the lack of Bitcoin educational efforts across the continent. While there are various Bitcoin Meetup groups in nearly every country, every local community is an isolated group operating within country borders. This is in stark contract to Bitcoin’s borderless and decentralized nature.
Bitcoin offers a tremendous level of innovation, technology, and most importantly, job creation. Filling those jobs has proven to be a difficult task, as hardly any European citizens know what Bitcoin is. Even if they do, the only association with Bitcoin they can make is either Mt. Gox or Silk Road, which isn’t helping matters much.
Education on Bitcoin is key to turn this virtual currency into a global financial ecosystem for everyday consumers. Bitcoin conferences are a great way to meet Bitcoiners from all over the world, yet the number of events in Europe has decreased in the past year. Even the popular Inside Bitcoins conference in London was first pushed from 2015 to 2016, and now seems to be canceled altogether.
There is a clear need for more conferences and educational Bitcoin efforts in Europe. Taking advantage of favorable regulation is one thing, but if there is no audience to cater to, the use for Bitcoin startups in Europe is fairly limited for the time being. Reaching a larger audience will rely on education, covered by mainstream media outlets.
What are your thoughts on Bitcoin in Europe, and how can awareness be improved? Would you like to see more affordable Bitcoin conferences in Europe? Let us know in the comments below!
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The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Bitcoin.com.