We were pleased to welcome Pēteris Zilgalvis, Head of Unit Digital Innovation and Blockchain | DG CONNECT, Susi Förschler, Associate | DWF Germany, and Thomas Dünser,Director of the Office for Financial Market Innovation | Liechtenstein Mission to the EU to this lunchtime event. The panel discussed a wide variety of topics surrounding the use of blockchain in industry, the legal implications of its growth, the potential regulation that might be necessary in future, and to what extent this regulation may hinder innovation and progress with regards to digitalisation.
We began by hearing about the potential uses for blockchain that the European Commission is focusing on, such as the verification of diplomas and modernising our approach to national ID.There was also interesting information about the roles and agendas of some of organisational bodies that are driving innovation, such as the European Blockchain Initiative and the Global Blockchain Congress.
Similarly, Liechtenstein’s new “Blockchain Act” is one of the first pieces of legislation that provides a legal framework for not only one or two specific industry uses, but for all aspects of the technology - from the initial creation of the token to its public sale and use in general services. The“Blockchain Act” deliberately stops short of regulating private investment and financial services, because excessive regulation could hinder rather than help innovation.
The private sector is also driving innovation in blockchain. We heard examples of businesses such as Walmart and Satoshipay that have adopted it into their businesses for a range of uses, from tracking lettuces to creating more efficient ways to process micropayments. The innovation of blockchain from within the private sector is dependent on large corporations seeing the benefits, but smaller start-ups are equally instrumental in progressing the technology. However, SME’s will have less initial involvement as it would make more financial sense for them to adopt the technology once it has been perfected - rather than be involved in a costly trial and error process.
Sectors such as property and finance are also impacted.The tokenisation of assets could revolutionise transactions of real estate and shares by breaking down the value of such assets into tokens, which simultaneously contain property rights, delivery conditions, etc. These tokens can then be traded on an exchange to allow investors to generate further revenue.
The discussion then progressed onto the potential legal pitfalls that come with innovating and expanding blockchain technology across Europe. In particular, debating whether tokens are similar enough to traditional securities that the current laws that protect securities are sufficient to protect tokens – and if so, what could a prospectus look like for them, as opposed to a security? Similarly, the concept of owning a token as a possession also has implications for property law and anti-trust law. Clarification of the law surrounding blockchain is necessary in order to separate genuine users from those wishing to exploit the technology for illegal purposes.
Head of Unit, Digital Innovation and Blockchain, Digital Single Market, DG CONNECT | European Commission
Pēteris Zilgalvis is the Head of Unit for Digital Innovation and Blockchain in the Digital Single Market Directorate in DG CONNECT and is the Co-Chair of the European Commission FinTech Task Force. He was nominated on the list of CoinDesk’s Most Influential People in Blockchain 2017. He was the Visiting EU Fellow at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford for 2013-14, where he is an Associate of the Political Economy of Financial Markets Programme. From 1997 to 2005, he was Deputy Head of the Bioethics Department of the Council of Europe, in its Directorate General of Legal Affairs. In addition, he has held various positions in the Latvian civil service (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Environment). He was Senior Environmental Law Advisor to the World Bank/Russian Federation Environmental Management Project and was Regional Environmental Specialist for the Baltic Countries at the World Bank. He has been a member of the California State Bar since 1991, completed his J.D. at the University of Southern California, his B.A. in Political Science Cum Laude at UCLA, and the High Potentials Leadership Program at Harvard Business School. A recent publication of his is “The Need for an Innovation Principle in Regulatory Impact Assessment: The Case of Finance and Innovation in Europe” in Policy & Internet.
Associate | DWF LLP
Susi is an associate at DWF’s Berlin office. As a member of the digital transformation team, she advises national and international clients on blockchain-based business models. Her focus is on regulatory and anti-money laundering issues as well as on structuring, including contract design, for blockchain use cases. Susi has a background in international and European Union law and tracks tech-innovation in the transport and real estate sector
Director of the Office for Financial Market Innovation | Liechtenstein Mission to the EU and Belgium
Thomas Dünser became Director of the Office for Financial Centre Innovation in April 2019. This government agency provides support for financial companies requiring advice and assistance on the issues arising from innovation and also monitors the implementation of the government’s innovation policies to shape the legislative structures to support innovative businesses. Thomas Dünser had previously worked in the field of innovation and digitalisation at the Ministry for General Government Affairs and Finance, where he was responsible for the development of the Blockchain Act in Liechtenstein, among other things. Prior to his position at the Ministry for General Government Affairs and Finance he ran his own business and was Director of Group Asset & Liability Management at VP Bank in Vaduz. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the ETH (Federal Institute of Technology) and went on to earn his doctorate at ETH Zurich.