Country level summaries & factsheets

Austria has adopted a mostly laissez-faire approach to regulating blockchain, limiting itself to monitoring developments in the DeFi space and issuing warnings to investors when needed. There is no specific legislation for crypto assets, while parts of more generic regulations (such as the Austrian Alternative Financing Act, the Austrian Banking Act, the Austrian Electronic Money Act and the Austrian Capital Markets Act) may apply. State-sponsored innovation and research activities, such as the Austrian Blockchain Center, pave the way for spearheading innovation though a public-private partnership model. As of December 2021, Austria-based blockchain companies have raised approximately EUR 50 million and the number of blockchain courses offered in the country has slightly increased.

Belgium can boast a vibrant crypto-assets community, with a distinct focus on Fintech startups. Due to its proximity to European Union decision-making headquarters, the country is an attractive location for international companies and several well-established companies and VC funds serve the continuous growth of the cryptocurrency ecosystem in the country. The number of blockchain startups in Belgium, has significantly increased. Belgium was the first country in the EU to spin up a second EBSI node. As of May 2022, the Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA), requires the region's crypto exchanges and custodial wallet services to register.

Bulgaria is improving its position in the European blockchain scene, with an emerging base of blockchain enthusiasts, as well as venture capital investors and start-up incubation programmes. Moreover, the country is part of the European Blockchain Service Infrastructure (EBSI) with five technology companies developing the node. The Ministry of Finance introduced the Anti-Money Laundering regulation in 2020 according to which cryptocurrencies have to be declared and audited by the National Revenue Agency as a financial asset. Bulgaria has also seen an increase in the number of blockchain-related educational courses.

Croatia has a small, but growing, ecosystem of blockchain start-ups and communities. There are a handful of cases for adopting cryptocurrencies as a payment method in Croatia. In May 2020, the country’s financial supervisor approved a bitcoin investment fund, even in the absence of any specific country-level legislation specific to crypto assets. In a span of 2 years, Croatian universities have incorporated blockchain courses in their curriculums while there are also organised research initiatives related to blockchain.

Cyprus remains one of Europe’s blockchain hotspots, and after announcing the draft bill to regulate blockchain technology in 2019, the government published the bill for public consultation in September 2021. Cyprus is also amongst the few Early Adopters of the EBSI, working on developing a fully operational national EBSI Infrastructure. Guidelines for the tax treatment of cryptocurrencies are also being prepared by the Tax Department. The country does not only boast the first-ever academic course and full degree on the subject, offered by the University of Nicosia (UNIC) since 2014, but also the first course to NFTs and the Metaverse, delivered on-chain and in the metaverse while additional blockchain courses are being prepared by UNIC and other research institutions.

The Czech Republic boasts a vibrant crypto asset community, including some notable European blockchain start-ups and one of the largest concentrations of public venues (doubled since 2020) accepting digital currencies as forms of payment. It also has a relatively strict regulatory framework, with laws aiming at limiting the anonymity of crypto asset transactions.

Denmark is one of the few countries globally where the government has engaged in comprehensive research on the potential economic impact of blockchain on industry and the labour market. In September 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark released a report analysing the use of blockchain in the fight against corruption. Danske Bank, the largest bank in Denmark, laid out its official position on cryptocurrencies in June 2021, not taking any practical stance against cryptocurrency. Although there is no legislation specific to crypto assets, the country shows a rising ecosystem of start-ups and universities working on blockchain-related applications and research.

Estonia initially adopted a receptive approach towards blockchain and cryptocurrencies by being the first country to adapt relevant legislation. Regulatory certainty, coupled with the country’s digital first approach, and e-residency programme allowing for the registering of companies remotely, resulted in a large number of blockchain businesses in the country. While the country remains a proponent of public sector blockchain initiatives on a national and European level, recent tightening of its positive policy and outlook on blockchain and cryptocurrencies has slowed down the expansion of the private sector.

Finland, although not having a comprehensive crypto asset regulatory framework in place, passed the Finnish Act on Virtual Currency Providers in 2019, providing a clear landscape for the registration and supervision of these companies. The government has shown interest in blockchain, with a number of pilot initiatives in e-government and the private sector has produced one of the world’s first digital currency exchanges, operating since 2012. Compared to 2020, the number of blockchain start-ups in the country has significantly decreased.

France is at the forefront of crypto asset recognition in Europe, having passed a legal framework for initial coin offerings (ICOs) as early as 2016, followed by further legislative initiatives in 2017 and 2018. There is a relatively large number of blockchain companies in the country, with one of the world’s most successful hardware wallet providers (Ledger) headquartered in Paris.

Germany has a very active blockchain ecosystem of companies and enthusiasts, especially in the city of Berlin. As of 2020, Germany included a new financial instrument in its banking laws, the crypto asset. In line with the governmental 2019 blockchain strategy, the German parliament issued a law on introducing electronic securities, including a blockchain register, in the summer of 2021. There is an abundance of entrepreneurial activity with an increasing number of companies active nationwide, while universities offer specialized degrees and professional training programs, as well as engaging in research and technology development activities.

Greece is a signatory to the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP), and has announced  a draft bill on emerging information and communication technologies in 2022.Firms give careful consideration as to whether their activities constitute regulated activities, according to guidance from the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). The overall size and maturity of the blockchain and cryptocurrency business ecosystem remains small despite the efforts of some initiatives to raise awareness and promote blockchain in the country. However, the number of blockchain courses offered by different institutions has increased.

Hungary has joined the EBP since 2019 and is developing an EBSI node. The Hungarian Central Bank announced plans to launch its native Central Bank Digital Currency. An update on the regulatory part is the revision of the tax rate on cryptocurrency profits. Essentially, Hungary revised the tax rate on cryptocurrency profits and decided on a more friendly regulation on cryptocurrency taxation. The public’s interest in blockchain is vivid as the community engaging with blockchain subjects grows.

Ireland has a relatively mature blockchain company ecosystem, with both local companies and subsidiaries of international ones (such as Consensys). The country has opted for a flexible and permissive regulatory approach to date, without passing regulation specific to crypto assets, but applying existing financial services legislation on a case-by-case basis instead. In 2021, the Central Bank of Ireland updated the consumer warning on virtual currencies. The public and private initiatives to promote blockchain adoption are increasing as are blockchain education initiatives. Blockchain companies in Ireland have collectively raised tens of millions in funding.

Italy has a number of state-sponsored pilot initiatives aiming at testing blockchain applications in government, as well as a large number of private pilots, mostly by financial institutions, while football fan tokens are on the rise and are significantly contributing to blockchain adoption in the country. The country was one of the first in the world to recognise the legal validity and enforceability of smart contracts in 2019. According to a ruling by the Revenue Agency, issued in July 2021, the tax authorities reiterate the equivalence of cryptocurrencies to foreign currencies.

Latvia has a blockchain-friendly business and regulatory climate, characterised by an active community of enthusiasts and a willingness to experiment (for example, airBaltic, the country’s national owned air carrier, became the first airline to accept digital assets for payments). There is a sizeable community of blockchain developers in the country, while authorities have published guidance on the legal treatment of digital assets and investor protection. Blockchain academic qualifications in Latvia are not established as Latvian universities do not offer a degree in blockchain-related technologies.

Liechtenstein has managed to establish a growing blockchain community, despite being Europe’s fourth smallest country. The blockchain ecosystem in the country is supported by a constellation of organisations, such as the Office for Financial Market Innovation and Digitalisation, the Financial Market Authority and the Entrepreneur Service. Since early 2020, Lichtenstein has put in force the Blockchain Act in an effort to provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for the token economy. In addition, the University of Liechtenstein acts as a major player for the country’s blockchain ecosystem offering two certificate blockchain programmes and participating in several projects and programmes.

Lithuania became an epicentre of ICO activity in Europe during 2017-2018, combining a blockchain-friendly regulatory approach with an abundance of local engineering talent. The country does not rest on its laurels and continues to develop its blockchain ecosystem. Lithuania is one of the top 30 of Europe’s biggest start-up hubs. The financial technology (FinTech) and ICT sectors have the highest growth and count with well-established start-ups. The Bank of Lithuania opened a pre-sale for the world’s first digital collector coins – dubbed “LBCOINs”. The amount of funding raised by Lithuanian start-ups, which has increased from millions to a billion in 2 years, places the country in the top tier of EU Member States, ranked by this criterion.

Luxembourg is one of Europe’s financial centres and, as such, has been at the forefront of developments in the financial applications of blockchain. The country passed a bill on “dematerialised securities” as early as 2013 and has attracted a number of crypto asset-related start-ups and significant funding in the industry. The country is the European leader in international securities listings. In late 2021, Luxembourg issued a guidance paving the way for alternative investment funds to invest in virtual assets.

Malta has been called “the blockchain island” as it has been one of the first countries in the world to have a comprehensive regulatory regime for crypto assets, since 2018. The country has made significant progress in the past 2 years as it became the first country to install a blockchain-based IP Register and transfer 60 000 records using the blockchain network. In addition, the Malta Gaming Authority has recently announced a digital asset focused sandbox, while the Malta Digital Innovation Authority launched a Technology Assurance Sandbox. Malta has attracted a large number of prominent crypto asset-related companies and is one of Europe’s most successful countries in attracting investment capital in the field. Following the University of Malta that launched its Master of Science in Blockchain and DLT in 2019, the Leadership and Management Institute has launched several additional blockchain courses.

The Netherlands boasts very strong blockchain communities, being amongst Europe’s top performers when measured by the amount of funding secured by crypto asset and blockchain start-ups. The country has not passed a crypto asset specific regulatory framework but has adopted a regulatory sandbox approach that empowers regulators to use a principles-based rather than a rules-based approach when dealing with emerging technologies. The number of blockchain start-ups launched and the millions raised by blockchain ICOs have increased compared to 2020. The number of companies that accept digital assets as a form of payment is large and keeps increasing, while the various meetups of digital assets enthusiasts in the country number thousands of members.

Norway has joined the EBP and has not implemented any laws or legal frameworks related to blockchain technology. Although Norwegian regulators have not yet taken a definitive stance on blockchain technology, the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway has emphasised the risks associated with trading cryptocurrencies and the need for a strong regulatory framework. After completing the third phase of a study on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), Norges Bank announced in May 2021 that it will begin testing technical solutions for a CBDC over the next 2 years. Norway is the first European nation to embrace public Ethereum, as the government announced a cap tables platform for unlisted companies built on public Ethereum.

Poland has adopted a strict approach against crypto assets, taxing profits from their trading as income and warning investors about the dangers of investing in them (the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) has published guidance for crypto assets and ICOs). The Office of the KNF published a warning in July 2021 on the Binance platform, which had traction in popularity. The cases of blockchain adoption in private and public sectors are increasing. The most notable case is the virtual sandbox and Innovation Hub by the UKNF. The KNF launched a virtual sandbox in 2021. The virtual sandbox was intended to simulate a number of banking operations and test solutions with the interaction with Open API for innovative payment services.

Portugal is to establish a node to join the EBSI. The country has friendly legislation towards cryptocurrencies holders, as the Portuguese Tax & Customs Authority announced that it is tax-free to exchange cryptocurrencies. There is legislation to support innovation via the blockchain application. There is a growing base of enthusiasts organised in communities and a small, but dynamic, start-up scene, which has been successful in raising growth capital from the market.

Romania passed a law in 2019 specifying that income from digital assets trading is taxable on profits and has established regulations around cryptocurrencies to protect investors. Elrond, a Romania-based blockchain start-up, achieved unicorn status in early 2021. The country implemented blockchain to safeguard the integrity for parliamentary elections in November 2020. The interest in blockchain is vivid as the community in Romania grows each year.

Slovakia boasts Europe’s first ATM, installed in Bratislava in 2013. The country is home to a Bitcoin mining facility which converts human and animal waste into Bitcoin hash rate, securing the network while mining Bitcoin. There is no crypto asset specific regulatory framework in place in the country, while the startup scene is at early stages of development.

Slovenia has a very active ecosystem around crypto assets, combining government support and active business development. The country was the first EU member state to launch a national test blockchain infrastructure (Sl-Chain) in 2019. In August 2021, the Slovenian Finance Authority announced a proposal to tax cryptocurrency participants with 10% of their assets income while the Slovenian Finance ministry sought a public opinion regarding crypto tax laws. Slovenia has also became the first country in the world to issue NFT tokens which will serve to promote the Slovenian economy and tourist destinations. 

Spain maintains its strong position in the blockchain education space in Europe, as the number of universities offering blockchain related degrees has increased. The number of companies and startups in the blockchain and crytpocurrency space is also steadily increasing, while in 2021 Spain introduced a law that legislates the obligation of cryptoasset owners and service providers, regarding to virtual currencies. The Spanish ecosystem is active with initiatives from prominent players in traditional fields such as banking, energy, shipping, telecommunications and even sports. One notable initiative is Alastria, which was formed in 2017 by a consortium of Spanish banking, energy and telecom companies.

Sweden has a developed and diverse blockchain ecosystem with notable initiatives. Riksbank, the country’s central bank, was amongst the world’s earliest examples of research on a CBDC, called the e-krona. Other notable pilot projects of public interest include a blockchain-based land registry and a number of applications in the financial services industry. The number of blockchain startups launched and the millions raised by blockchain ICOs have slightly decreased compared to 2020. The Swedish government assigned a special committee to investigate needs for legislative changes in eliminating barriers to digital development in the public sector in 2017, however the investigation did not result in any legislative amendments related to crypto assets or blockchain.

Switzerland remains one of the most advanced nations when it comes to blockchain and crypto assets, not only in Europe but also globally. It has been called the “crypto nation” and is home to the world-famous “crypto valley” of the Zug canton. The country is home to a very large number of blockchain companies, amongst them some of the most well-known industry names, such as the Ethereum Foundation, Polkadot, Cardano, Solana, Cosmos and Tezos. Companies and organisations operating nationwide have collectively raised more funds than in any other country while the total valuation of top 50 companies is extremely high – higher than any other country. Switzerland is home to the first two blockchain banks SEBA and Sygnum, with a banking license from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority. The country moved early to clarify the legal situation of crypto assets, with the earliest report by the federal government published in 2018, analysing the applicability of the existing legal framework on blockchain. In 2020, the Swiss Parliament passed the DLT blanket act, which selectively adapts 10 existing federal laws. In August 2021, one of the key changes came into force, a license for DLT trading facilities. Several universities have launched blockchain-focused academic degrees or specialised courses. The number of blockchain-focused academic degrees offered in the country has also increased.

The United Kingdom maintains its great interest in blockchain, with the first report commissioned by the government published in 2016. The country remains an epicentre of business activity in the space today, with many startups and significant capital raising success. More than 300 companies have raised north of EUR 3.8 billion, while the energy and creative industries are two emerging sectors in terms of blockchain application. Even in the absence of a crypto assets specific regulatory framework, there are many initiatives underway in the UK, driven by the various hubs within the innovation blockchain ecosystem.