Regulation is good, but we also need to encourage innovation on the Web3

Regulation is good, but we also need to encourage innovation on the Web3

For the second year running, Belgian centrist MP Christophe De Beukelaer is organising Brussels Blockchain Week, which kicks off this Wednesday. In an interview with The Big Whale, he talks about the aim of the event: to bridge the gap between Web3 and the traditional economy.

The Big Whale: You are one of the few 'crypto' MEPs in Europe. What drew you into this world?

I'm a kind of entrepreneur in politics. I'm involved in politics, and it's a day-to-day commitment at regional level in Brussels, but I also have one foot firmly planted in the world of entrepreneurship and more specifically in Web3 because I'm convinced that cryptos can help improve our financial system.

What do you think is wrong with the current financial system?

A lot of things. It's centralised, opaque and expensive, three problems that cryptos can help solve. In Europe, while banks work pretty well, they're still expensive, and in other parts of the world, like South America or Southeast Asia, people simply don't have access to them. We need to change that.

Is that why you started accepting payments in bitcoin?

When I saw and understood what crypto could bring to the financial system, I asked a lot of questions of the government and appeared on TV shows, but I soon realised that we needed to move from words to deeds. So in 2022, I converted my salary into bitcoin every month.

You stopped doing this in 2023... Why?

Because it's a political act. It's like what the mayors of New York and Miami did: it was necessary to send a message, but it's not intended to last over time. It's like some activists who tie themselves to a tree to raise awareness of deforestation. The aim is to make an impression.

You are also the organiser of Brussels Blockchain Week, which starts this Wednesday. What do you expect from the second edition?

I have two objectives: the first is to build a bridge between traditional finance and the world of the web3. We have to be clear: decentralised finance is not going to replace centralised finance as we know it, with its big banks, its investment funds, its insurers... Decentralised finance will help to improve centralised finance, and our aim with Brussels Blockchain Week is to support this change.

And that's the second objective: with Brussels Blockchain Week, we want to create a benchmark event that bridges the gap between traditional finance and web3. I have teamed up with Raoul Ullens, who comes from the crypto world, to bring these two worlds together.

You speak of a bridge with the traditional economy. Will there be any representatives at the event?

Yes, there will be regulators, banks, insurers, even if the majority of participants are still representatives of Web3.

What is special about Brussels Blockchain Week?

We're not a flashy conference with glitter and NFTs all over the place. The aim is to move the ecosystem forward and it was important for Brussels to have its web3 conference.

Brussels must play its role as European capital. When I saw that all the European capitals had their week, and that we were the only ones not to have it, I said to myself that it had to be done.

You want to create a bridge between traditional finance and web3, but does that only involve regulation?

We have two days at the conference: the first day is clearly about regulation. There will be representatives from the European Commission, regulators and of course entrepreneurs. We'll be talking about future regulations, DeFi and other topical issues.

On the second day, we'll be talking about tokenisation. We're going to see how all activities, especially in finance, are going to change with blockchain technologies. There are two aspects: regulation and practicality.

Do you get the impression that there is that much practicality in the Web3 universe? In the end, isn't what's most concrete more regulation than projects?

The fact that you can represent real things in a token is a real use case. There are some very interesting examples in real estate, finance and gaming.

There are blockchain weeks in every country. Isn't Europe more a sum of national ecosystems than a global one? Why not create a European blockchain week?

That's kind of the ambition. I hope that crypto will be one of the levers for building a political Europe. It would be great if, for example, Europe set up a European tax on cryptos to fund European projects and in particular European web3 projects. Unfortunately, things aren't really moving in that direction today. There is no global vision. We have the MiCA regulation, but we need more.

You mention MiCA. What is your view of the text?

Overall, it's a very good thing, even if, as we saw at the outset, the debates were off to a bad start with some people wanting to ban everything, particularly Proof-of-Work, and therefore Bitcoin. Regulation is not about prohibition, it's about organisation. In the end, things have moved on, and the French have been very active in this area. But we must not stop there. Regulation is fine, but we also need to encourage innovation, and that's where we're not so good.

Doesn't what's happening in the United States, with the SEC's offensive against crypto projects, represent a huge opportunity for Europe?

Yes, of course, but we also need to be wary because the Americans can go either way. We'll see what happens. We clearly have a card to play, even if Brian Armstrong's statements a few days ago about China show the extent to which we cannot think that everything is won. We need to support the European web3 ecosystem, otherwise history will repeat itself.

Who are the Belgian players in the web3 ecosystem?

It's clearly not the biggest ecosystem, but there are players that count such as Keyrock, a market maker that raised €70 million at the end of 2022, or SettleMint, a blockchain platform that also raised €16 million at the end of 2022.

What do you think will enable the ecosystem to grow?

We need real use cases, a bit like ChatGPT with artificial intelligence.

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