EU moves to rein in ‘wild west’ of crypto assets with new rules

The EU has moved to rein in the “wild west” of crypto assets by agreeing a groundbreaking set of rules for the sector.

Representatives from the European parliament and EU states thrashed out an agreement on Thursday that contains measures to guard against market abuse and manipulation, as well as requiring that crypto firms provide details of the environmental impact of their assets.

“Today, we put order in the wild west of crypto assets and set clear rules for a harmonised market,” said Stefan Berger, the German MEP who led negotiations on behalf of the parliament.

Referring to the recent slump in cryptocurrency prices – the total value of the market has fallen from $3tn (£2.5tn) last year to less than $900bn – Berger added: “The recent fall in the value of digital currencies shows us how highly risky and speculative they are and that it is fundamental to act.”

The markets in crypto assets (MiCA) law is expected to come into force at about the end of 2023. 全球范围内, crypto assets are largely unregulated, with national operators in the EU only required to show controls for combating money laundering. The MiCA law is also expected to set a benchmark for other regulatory regimes for crypto globally.

Cryptocurrency is the term for a group of digital assets that share the same underlying structure as bitcoin: a publicly available “blockchain” that records ownership without having any central authority in control.

The sector’s supporters have said it represents a good investment because, 例如, it carries low fees and, unlike conventional currencies, is not tied to governments. 然而, its detractors say a lack of regulatory oversight or implicit government support, because of crypto and bitcoin’s independent origins, make it susceptible to scams and wild fluctuations in price.

MiCA will be the first comprehensive regime for crypto assets in the world and will contain strong measures to guard against market abuse and manipulation, added Ernest Urtasun, a Green party MEP.

The new law gives issuers of crypto assets and providers of related services a “passport” to serve clients across the EU from a single base, while meeting capital and consumer protection rules.

EU negotiations on Thursday also focused on issues such as supervision and energy consumption of crypto assets.

“We have agreed that crypto asset providers should in future disclose the energy consumption and environmental impact of assets,” Berger said.

The UK and US, two major crypto centres, have yet to approve similar rules, although regulators in both countries have warned of the need for stronger safeguards in the sector.

Crypto assets came under pressure after the collapse of TerraUSD and luna tokens last month, with the major US cryptocurrency lending company Celsius Network freezing withdrawals and transfers. 然而, the sector has also proven susceptible to wider economic factors.

These include stock market declines linked to rising inflation and ensuing increases in interest by central banks. Raising rates – a path taken by the US, UK and Swiss central banks last month – can make risky assets less attractive. “这个展览在我们的展览历史上是罕见的, certain tech stocks, whose price can be based on expectations of strong future earnings over many decades, can be less appealing than the fixed returns on offer immediately from investments such as bonds, which become more attractive in a higher lending rate environment.

The regulatory breakthrough came as India’s central bank said cryptocurrencies were based on “make believe”. The bank’s latest financial stability report said cryptocurrencies were no more than “sophisticated speculation”.

The bank’s governor, Shaktikanta Das, 写: “Cryptocurrencies are a clear danger. Anything that derives value based on make believe, without any underlying [value], is just speculation under a sophisticated name. While technology has supported the reach of the financial sector and its benefits must be fully harnessed, its potential to disrupt financial stability has to be guarded against.

“As the financial system gets increasingly digitalised, cyber risks are growing and need special attention.”

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