The European Union this week took a major step towards joining the FinTech era by boarding the blockchain train, a new technology that is already used for independently verifying and recording transactions.

Blockchain is the key system that allowed for the birth of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Brussels has officially joined the governing world that is also looking at ways the blockchain technologies can be used in other applications. By moving towards the creation of a blockchain observatory and forum, the Berlaymont seeks to “play an active role in helping Europe seize new opportunities”.

Joseph Lubin, CEO of ConsenSys, a developer of blockchain applications that will work with EU officials to gather information, analyze trends, bring experts together and find new uses for the technology, and S&D MEP Jakob von Weizsäcker joined the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, for the presentation of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum – a pilot project of the European Parliament first proposed by von Weizsacker.

The new blockchain hub is intended to support the Commission’s work of FinTech.

Paulius Kuncinas

“Europe can be at the forefront of its development,” Commissioner Gabriel told reporters in Brussels. “We have been funding blockchain projects since 2013. The total support will soon reach 100 million euros” she said.

Gabriel said blockchain projects help where peer to peer security is the number one concern of users. The My Health My Data project aims to encourage patients to share their data securely and sidestep the lucrative health data black market, which has seen prices skyrocket 10 times more than other industries with 67.7 million medical records breached since 2009.

Gabriel hopes to reverse the current trend where Europe does not have enough developers working on blockchain and leaving the EU beyond other developers.

Along with the Commission, the European Central Bank has also been looking for ways to harness the new technology. Its president Mario Draghi remains cautious about the adoption of blockchain technology in the euro area, looking for ways to secure the bloc’s payment system.

The European Commission says it plans to explore the payment system’s potential to improve cross-border European services in taxes, VAT reporting, customs, title and business registries, environmental, financial and company reports, health record management, clinical trial reports, medicine registration, and identity management.

Gateway for blockchain opens in Lithuania

The opening of observatory and forum coincided with the launch of Europe’s first international Blockchain Centre in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on January 27.

The new hub will help Europe connect with partner Blockchain Centres in Australia, China, Canada, the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Gibraltar, Ukraine, Israel, and Latvia.

During the launch, several high-level debates on blockchain’s future took place and included MEP Virginijus Sinkevičius and Antanas Guoga, the founder of Blockchain Vilnius

The main topic of discussion centred on solutions to security problems, as well as steps that can be taken to make blockchain a mainstream technology and affordable for business in the EU and how to establish trust between Europeans and their traditional institutions. Blockchain Vilnius has signed a number of cooperation agreements with PricewaterhouseCoopers, British 20|30 & Pillar Project, Singapore based Foundation, Canadian GCAC, Malaysian PUNDI X LABS, and Australian Coinstop and Lithuanian

“Experts from the world´s Intellectual centres predict diverse scenarios in crypto-currency development/ Blockchain is not just about crypto-currency. Blockchain technology is already being adopted by many businesses and public administration sectors. The potential is enormous…Lithuania must become an important link in the global blockchain industry,” Sinkevičius said at the opening ceremony.

Four years after the first Blockchain Centre was set up in Melbourne, Martin Davidson – the Global Director and CEO of Blockchain Centre Melbourne – said Lithuania was a natural fit to its growing international network as the Baltic region is the latest to be warm to the concept and application of blockchain technology.

Vilnius was selected by the Australian and Asian blockchain communities as “the network’s first location in Europe due to its political and economic stability, favourable business and regulatory environment, and its membership in the European Union.”

The Vilnius centre will incubate and accelerate blockchain and crypto-currency start-ups and provide them with a platform to build a trusted network within the public and private sectors.

Blockchain was originally developed as the accounting method for Bitcoin after it was fist conceptualized by an anonymous Japanese entity known as Satoshi Nakamoto. The term “blockchain” comes from the process by which the digital ledger’s most recent transactions, or blocks, are recorded and archived in a chronological list known as chains.

It is primarily used to verify transactions within digital currencies, but can also be used to digitise, code, and insert practically any document into the blockchain. This creates a fixed record that cannot be changed and allows the record’s authenticity to be verified by the entire community using the blockchain.