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Germany’s Second Largest Stock Exchange, SolarisBank Partner to Launch Crypto Exchange

SolarisBank and Stuttgart Exchange Group are jointly developing a crypto exchange meant to be launched in the first half of next year.

SolarisBank and Stuttgart Exchange Group are jointly developing infrastructure for a cryptocurrency exchange, Cointelegraph Germany reports Dec. 12.

The Stuttgart Exchange, founded in 1860, is the second largest stock exchange in Germany and the ninth largest in Europe. SolarisBank, on the other hand, is a German fintech company established in 2015 that holds a banking license and offers a “Banking as a Platform” service.

This news goes along with the plans announced by the exchange in May to release a zero-fee cryptocurrency trading application.

The two companies’ crypto exchange, “which is scheduled to launch in the first half of 2019,” will have SolarisBank acting as the exchange’s banking platform.

Roland Folz, the CEO of SolarisBank, declared that “a reliable and efficient trading platform is an elementary contribution to [their] vision of a hybrid financial world with both fiat and cryptocurrencies.”

The press release notes that Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) will be available for trading on the exchange by both retail and institutional investors. As well, an ICO platform, which had been announced in August, is under development for the exchange. The tokens introduced on the platform will be tradeable on secondary markets as well.

This project is part of SolarisBank’s “Blockchain Factory” initiative, which offers its customers specialized accounts meant for blockchain companies.

As Cointelegraph reported in April, VPE WertpapierhandelsBank AG (VPE), a German securities trading bank, has partnered with SolarisBank as well. The partnership’s objective is to launch a cryptocurrency trading service for institutional investors.

Bitwala, a German crypto-banking startup operated by Solaris Bank, also reported today that they have opened for business with 40,000 pre-registered customers that will get access to Bitcoin and euro deposit accounts.

Using Solaris Bank’s banking license, euro funds will be protected up to an amount of 100,000 euros, and will be supervised by Germany’s two banking regulators — BaFin and Bundesbank.

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British Crypto Exchange CEX.IO Now Requires Identity Info From Users

London-based crypto exchange CEX.IO has started requiring its users to disclose their identities to purportedly comply with international laws.

United Kingdom-based cryptocurrency exchange CEX.IO now requires its users to disclose their identities, financial trading news outlet Finance Magnates reported Dec. 11.

Established in 2013, CEX is a London-based cryptocurrency trading platform, initially started as a cloud mining provider. Currently, the exchange supports eight major digital currencies and four major fiat currencies, while its adjusted daily trading volume is around $4.9 million, according to CoinMarketCap.

While the situation with Brexit — the scenario in which the U.K. leaves EU — remains cloudy, CEX.IO does business with clients internationally, and therefore aims to comply with relevant international regulations, including the European Union’s Fifth Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Directive. The directive entered into force in July 2018, and EU member states have until Jan. 10, 2020 to implement it in their respective national laws.

CEX.IO is also a registered member of the the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) of the United States Department of the Treasury, and still has to perform operations in accordance with U.S. law. CEX’s Regulatory Affairs Counsel, Serhii Mokhniev, reportedly commented on the company’s decision:

“We have always understood the importance of dealing with virtual currency within a legal framework, so mandatory verification for customers who transact in fiat currency was introduced long before the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive was adopted in the EU.”

In December 2017, the U.K. and EU jointly announced they are  planning a “crackdown” on crypto-enabled money laundering and tax evasion. The increased regulations, in line with directives in the EU, are intended to limit the amount of anonymity possible for cryptocurrency traders. In October, U.K. Economic Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said:

“The U.K. government is currently negotiating amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering directive that will bring virtual currency exchange platforms and custodian wallet providers into Anti-Money Laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulation, which will result in these firms’ activities being overseen by national competent authorities for these areas.”

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EU Report Considers Blockchain-Based Digital Identities, Tokenized National Currencies

The EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum has made a case for a blockchain-powered “self-sovereign” digital identity system to secure and share personal information.

In its latest report released on Dec. 7, the European Union Blockchain Observatory and Forum (EUBOF) made a case for a blockchain-based digital identity system and digital versions of national currencies.

The report was prepared by blockchain software technology firm ConsenSys AG on behalf of the EUBOF, and focuses on the analysis of what blockchain properties could be beneficial and advantageous for governments.

The EUBOF suggests that governments should develop “user-controlled, ‘self-sovereign’ identity capabilities” to create secure, private, unique and verifiable identities, that can provide sufficient proof of identity without revealing more data than it is necessary for a transaction. The report recognizes that this has proven difficult to achieve with centralized technologies.

While the idea behind blockchain-based self-sovereign identity is that individuals could keep verified personal information themselves, instead of third parties, the EUBOF notes potential challenges for governments.

The report states that identity standards and frameworks must first be developed, in addition to defining the extent to which people want identity systems to be decentralized. It adds:

“They [governments] will have to take into account how identity attributes change over time during a person’s natural lifecycle, and will need to offer different levels of transparency depending on the context (e.g., verifying that someone is over 18 without providing a birth date). Identity platforms also need to be inclusive of all citizens, including those who, for whatever reason, have no access to or are not able to use technology.”

Another important issue raised in the report is digital versions of national currencies on a blockchain, or the ability of governments to “put fiat currency on the chain.” The report further reads:

“Putting digital versions of national currencies on the blockchain means they could then become integral parts of smart contracts. That would unlock much of the potential innovation of blockchain by allowing parties to create automated agreements, including direct transactions in these currencies, instead of having to use a cryptocurrency as a proxy.”

The report cites plans and initiatives of central banks in tokenizing national currencies, or inter-bank payments with distributed ledgers to make transaction processes more transparent, resilient, and cost efficient. Moreover, governments could purportedly use blockchain-based tokens in non-monetary ways, like an e-voucher that can be exchanged for government services.

This week, Malta, France, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Greece released a declaration calling for help in the promotion of Distributed Ledger Technology’s (DLT) use in the region, claiming that could be a “game changer” for southern EU economies. Among other things, the group also cited blockchain tech’s use for protecting citizens’ privacy and making bureaucratic procedures more efficient.

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Ripple, NEM & Two Others Launch ‘Blockchain for Europe’ Association

Four major blockchain companies have formed a “Blockchain for Europe” Association in a bid to promote the understanding and proactive regulation of blockchain across the continent.

Four major blockchain companies have formed a “Blockchain for Europe” Association, according to a press release Dec. 5. The association seeks to promote the understanding and proactive regulation of blockchain and other distributed ledger (DLT) technologies across the continent.

The four participant companies are Ripple, the NEM Foundation, Emurgo – which supports commercial ventures based on the Cardano blockchain – and “smart ledger” development firm Fetch.AI. The firms have outlined the Association’s aim as addressing the European Union’s “fragmented” policy debate around blockchain, which they claim is skewed by “inconsistent” information from those outside the emerging sector.

In a bid to improve upon the current state of affairs, the newly-formed association will aim to educate those in EU and member state institutions about the technology’s potential. It will also advocate for future “smart” regulation that will be conducive to innovation and help the continent “shape the global agenda” on blockchain.

On Nov. 27, the Association hosted a Blockchain for Europe Summit at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels, together with the four largest EP groups: The European People’s Party group (EPP), The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), and The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

The international conference addressed blockchain’s potential across multiple sectors and use cases, including governance, healthcare, transport, trade, identity, financial market infrastructure and tokens/cryptocurrencies.

Earlier this fall, Italy became the most recent EU member state to join another regional industry group, the European Blockchain Partnership, whose members include the U.K., France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland. The Partnership has declared its aim as being “the establishment of a European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) that will support the delivery of cross-border digital public services, with the highest standards of security and privacy.”

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Energy Firm ENGIE Partners With Consulting Firm to Create Blockchain Software Offering

French energy group ENGIE has teamed up with consulting firm Maltem to establish a blockchain software offering geared toward commercial clients.

French electric utility company ENGIE and consulting firm Maltem Consulting Group have jointly established a blockchain development firm designed for commercial customers, according to a press release published September 7.

The new project called Blockchain Studio received seed funding totalling €1.9 million (around $2.1 million). Blockchain Studio has created a software suite for commercial enterprises comprised of two fundamental tools. One tool is focused on the development of smart contracts and enables its application by users without technical background. The other tool manages the creation of cloud-based or server-based blockchain infrastructure.

According to the announcement, the company is planning to roll out its services primarily on the Asian market at the beginning of 2019, with an office in Singapore. By the end of the first financial semester of next year, Blockchain Studio will also open operations in Southern Europe.

Yves Le Gélard, ENGIE’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Digital Officer expressed enthusiasm towards the new project:

“We are very pleased to be contributing to this development, which should allow Blockchain technology to be made accessible to many actors. It is an excellent example of an innovative tool contributing to ENGIE’s digital transformation.”

ENGIE has previously explored blockchain applications in its energy business. In July, the corporate research center of the ENGIE Group, ENGIE Lab CRIGEN, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the IOTA Foundation. The collaboration is focused on the exploration of and experimentation with IOTA Tangle technology in the energy sector.