Cryptocurrency adoption is growing worldwide. As governments and economies discover the enormous potential that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies provide, some jurisdictions are spearheading the process.
With the introduction of innovative legal frameworks, cryptocurrency acceptance for government services, widespread availability and further measures, they are ready for the ever-accelerating adoption of cryptocurrencies.
Here are some European countries acting as trailblazers in this field.
With a long-held reputation as a safe and prestigious Global Financial Hub, it is no surprise that Switzerland realized the potential of cryptocurrencies early on. The canton of Zug, home of Cryptix AG, even positioned itself as the global “Crypto Valley”.
Already in February 2018, the Swiss financial regulator FINMA published its landmark decision to categorize existing cryptocurrencies and tokens into utility tokens, payment tokens and security tokens. This classification provided much-needed legal clarity and became exemplary for token regulation in many jurisdictions worldwide.
Some Swiss banks enable their clients to hold Bitcoin deposits with their bank as a “crypto-custodian service” has been added to their service offerings.
Zug is also the first Canton to allow its citizens to pay their taxes in Bitcoin. Indeed, in Zug you can even find a dentist accepting Bitcoin or enjoy an exquisite selection at the House of Wines – paid for in Bitcoin.
Austria not only offers beautiful mountains and lakes, but also a welcoming attitude towards blockchain and cryptocurrencies, as a dense network of Bitcoin ATMs, accepting merchants and a thriving blockchain startup ecosystem show.
The Austrian government’s approach is to fit cryptocurrencies into the existing regulatory scheme, the financial regulator FMA is generally taking a technology-neutral supervisory approach to cryptocurrency regulation.
In terms of banking, there are currently no Austrian banks offering crypto-custodian services, yet the Raiffeisen Bank International is part of the world’s leading blockchain bank consortium “R3”.
Not only does Austria have the highest density of crypto ATMs worldwide (56 in a country of 9 million), but the Austrian post office also offers the sale of Bitcoin in every single one of its roughly 400 branches across the country. The same option is offered by over 5.000 small kiosks (“Trafiken”) alongside the sale of newspapers and cigarettes.
Currently, more than 100 restaurants, bars, and shops in Austria accept Bitcoin. Vienna, the country’s capital, is home to a thriving blockchain and crypto-scene with regular meetups and conferences and our very own Cryptix LABS.
Netherlands are generally known for their liberal attitude and openness, which also extends to the acceptance of cryptocurrencies.
While there is generally no clear legal framework for cryptocurrencies implemented in the jurisdiction, the Dutch National Bank (DNB) has since 2015 been experimenting with “DNBCoin” – its own cryptocurrency serving as an internal learning project.
Banking is not as crypto-advanced as for example in Switzerland, but Dutch bank giant ING, also an R3 consortium member, is reportedly working on offering crypto-custodian services to its clients soon.
Crypto-travelers have a great time getting by around the country’s capital. With a population of 800.000, Amsterdam has over 80 Merchants like bars and restaurants accepting crypto.
What is so special about it is that most of those merchants have their stores along The Bitcoin Boulevard which was unveiled in 2015. Shopping here let’s us imagine a world where we can pay everywhere using our favorite cryptocurrencies!
Albeit small, Slovenia is among the most crypto-friendly countries in Europe, owing to a vibrant and growing blockchain scene and its initiative.
The country’s government is taking an active stance in positioning Slovenia as a crypto-welcoming nation, though no specific legal framework has yet been passed to regulate the field.
The country’s biggest banks are not offering crypto-custodian services yet, but Hranilnica Lon Bank has enabled all of its ATMs across the country to issue Bitcoin vouchers that users can redeem online.
Overall, users can easily access cryptocurrencies through 15 crypto ATMs nationwide. Yet, the real highlight is BTC City - the world’s biggest business and entertainment center where all merchants accept Bitcoin.
BTC city offers hotels, spas and the impressive Atlantis Waterpark. Located in the capital city Ljubljana, BTC City shows what a bitcoin-friendly mall looks like.
As a world-renowned financial hub, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is at the forefront of the crypto revolution. Luxembourg is home to a number of crypto-exchanges, a growing ecosystem of Blockchain start-ups and a technology-friendly government.
Already in June 2018, an expert committee developed a national Blockchain strategy for Luxembourg under guidance of the country’s ministry of economy. While Luxembourg has no explicit regulation for cryptocurrencies, in February 2019 it issued Bill 7363 which updated existing regulation to allow for the issuance of digital securities on a blockchain. The country’s financial supervisory authority CSSF requires all cryptocurrency service providers to obtain a payment institution license granted under EU Directive 2015/2366.
Unfortunately, there are currently no bank institutions in Luxembourg allowing their customers to buy and sell cryptocurrencies via their accounts.
A growing number of crypto-startups flock to the small country, following the setup of a Blockchain hub of excellence in late 2019 (under guidance by University of Luxembourg’s SnT). Aside from these networking and meetup opportunities, crypto-enthusiasts can find restaurants, photographers and furniture stores accepting Bitcoin.
The Southern-most of the Baltic countries has made a name for itself as a crypto-friendly country with blockchain-friendly regulation and home of numerous growing blockchain start-ups.
Already in 2017, the Bank of Lithuania adopted ICO regulations, adding STO regulation in 2019. The Bank of Lithuania since has been the most active voice to call for uniform digital asset regulation inside the European Union, even launching its own digital currency LBCoin.
Lithuanian retail banks, however, are slow to open to cryptocurrency adoption – in our research we didn’t learn about a single bank offering crypto-custodian services to its clients as of December 2020.
Still, crypto-owners have plenty of options to spend their coins. The capital city of Vilnius is welcoming to crypto-owners with over 60 shops, bars and restaurants accepting a wide selection of cryptocurrencies.
Pay for an exquisite dinner with Dash, buy your partner flowers in Ethereum or settle the hotel bill using Litecoin while enjoying the charm in the city’s historical center.
Recognizing the enormous economic potential of an emerging blockchain industry, Malta’s government developed an initiative to position the country as the world’s “Blockchain Island”.
In late 2018, an innovative legal framework for digital assets was passed. The country’s government also organized large blockchain conferences with prestigious participants from all around the world.
While Malta has long been known to be a financial hub, the banking sector is currently still a little hesitant to offer support for the country’s growing crypto-startup ecosystem. This is why multiple actors are joining forces to establish “Founders Bank” which is supposed to fill just that need.
In Malta, crypto-fans find dozens of bars and shops accepting Bitcoin and an active crypto-community holding regular meetups and events. Want to dig deeper? The University of Malta offers the world’s first master’s degree in Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies.
Since becoming “Blockchain Island”, a flourishing crypto-scene has developed on the sunny Mediterranean island of Malta that offers over 300 sunny days per year.
Cryptocurrencies are on the rise – and we are glad they are! Yet, it is crypto-friendly nations like Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Malta that inspire more regions to follow suit, thereby promoting an ever-wider adoption of cryptocurrencies.