Industry Cautious to EU’s Landmark Crypto Law MiCA

The European Union’s Markets in Crypto Assets Regulation (MiCA) could prove transformative, CoinDesk has been told, even if some in the industry query whether it will meet its goals of offering a single, clear rulebook for the 27-nation bloc.

MiCA would require crypto companies to register with the authorities, to hold sufficient capital to steady stablecoins and to offer clear and fair information to budding investors – and its text is, after many years, now almost finalized.

The world of crypto moves faster than legislators do, and this law has had quite the journey.

Originally designed to regulate crypto actors like issuers and wallet providers in an era where initial coin offerings, including scams, were rife, the draft bill evolved alongside innovations in the sector.

Between conception and completion, new provisions were inserted or contemplated to deal with the defunct Facebook-backed currency project Libra, later renamed Diem; the energy use of bitcoin mining; the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs); decentralized finance (DeFi); and algorithmic stablecoins like the now-doomed terraUSD.

It’s still not settled. A draft that leaked last week was viewed by some negotiators as the final version – but, at the last minute, it was opposed for not sticking to the political deal struck at the end of June. (While negotiations are being held in secret, three sources briefed on the talks told CoinDesk that objections came from France; one of them said countries other than France were also involved, but declined to say which.)

The law’s architects are still keen to trumpet its benefits – notably, allowing a single framework under which companies can operate across the bloc of 500 million consumers.

“The NFTs bit [of the law] is unnecessarily complicated,” Blockchain for Europe’s Robert Kopitsch said in an online interview. “Depending on who you ask, you get a different answer, which is never a good thing.”

EU governments wanted NFTs to be exempted from the regulation entirely – but lawmakers at the European Parliament argued that, in reality, many so-called NFTs on the market were in fact traded like financial products, and capable of similar kinds of mis-selling and market abuse.

The current legal compromise means any assets issued as part of a series will likely be deemed fungible, meaning that in practice the bulk of self-proclaimed NFTs will be caught by the regulation. Worse still, it could mean individual national enforcers could take inconsistent views about whether a particular asset needs to issue a white paper.

In other areas, like caps on the use of non-euro stablecoins – introduced by governments panicking that a Libra-style payment system could usurp their own currency – the final compromise text seems to have found better favor.

A compromise deal that would see the use of many stablecoins limited to 1 million transactions per day is “quite a good end result,” because it will only capture real-world payments rather than trading activity, Patrick Hansen, Crypto Venture Advisor at Presight Capital, told CoinDesk in an online interview. That view may still change, since the scope of the cap is what France objected to.

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