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6.63 Rather Enabling Environment
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Spain is trying hard to become one of the world leaders in the implementation of the blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. It was estimated that there were 50 fintech companies in 2013 which have increased to 238 as of February 2017 and to 289 as of December 2018; they mainly specialize in acting as platforms for attracting investments as well as providing payment services.
In September 2014, the Spanish Congress considered Bitcoin as an electronic payment system and noted that Spain-based Bitcoin gambling companies must apply for both a gambling license and a relevant individual license as well as were subject to the existing anti-money laundering (AML) laws.
The situation with the legal regulation of the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchain in Spain might have changed by the end of 2018. On May 30, 2018, the Congress of Spain preapproved Bill 162/000588 "On the creation of a regulatory framework for investments in cryptocurrencies and ICOs" describing legal regulation of cryptocurrencies and blockchain and initiated by the People's Party (Partido Popular) constituting the parliamentary majority. The Bill calls for a revision of the rules regarding cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin (BTC), and also proposes to introduce the blockchain technology into the Spanish market through "controlled testing environments", commonly called "regulatory sandboxes". In addition, it raises the question of smart contracts application.
In April 2018, the National Reform Program of the Kingdom of Spain 2018 was published on the website of the Ministry of Economics, which included the expansion of digital technologies application in the economy among other main tasks for 2018.
In April 2018, Spain joined the group of 22 EU countries that signed a Declaration creating the European Blockchain Partnership.
Rather Enabling Political Environment
Issues related to the blockchain technology development and cryptocurrency regulation are of great political importance to Spain. The regulation of blockchain and cryptocurrency may have a generally positive effect on the development of the Spanish economy, making Spain a more attractive country for investors and startup businesses. At the same time, certain caution remains, the authorities still adhere to the policy of disseminating information about risks to cryptocurrency investors. Positions of the top political figures are generally harmonized and contain no serious contradictions, although it is highly possible that the domestic political crisis in Spain may slow down the whole process.
Rather not Enabling Legal Environment
Regulatory Convergence In Spain, there is no comprehensive legislation specifically designed to regulate blockchain and cryptocurrency relationships. Relations are not regulated by any single body, but should be coordinated between the Congress, the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV), and the Central Bank of Spain taking into account any possible general EU resolutions on cryptocurrencies. The positions held by the regulators contain no serious contradictions. The authorities are guided by a unified approach to the regulation of blockchain projects and cryptocurrencies.
Definiteness of Legal Regulation Spain has no systematic legislation on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, however, some aspects received appropriate regulation (on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies mining taxation), and the initiative to create special legislation and regulatory sandboxes has already been launched with all the chances to have entered into force by the end of 2018–the beginning 2019. Fintech companies have legal status in Spain, but ICOs are currently not a completely regulated procedure, therefore the Bank of Spain and the CNMV are taking steps to disseminate information about the high risks of investing in cryptocurrencies. The relevant legal relations are partially regulated by the current legislation of Spain and the EU, the application of which to blockchain and cryptocurrencies is explained by regulators in their resolutions or guidelines.
Stability of Legal Regulation The government of Spain has over the past four years shown increased attention to the issue of legal regulation of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, but this process is still underway. The new bill (expected in the end 2018-beginning 2019) may serve as the basis for the development of system legislation offering specific definition of what is meant by ICOs, cryptocurrency, smart contracts, etc.
Adequacy of Legal Regulation In general, despite the fact that Spain has no specialized comprehensive legislation, a great deal of attention of state authorities to this issue and plans for its early resolution form positive expectations for the development of the blockchain and cryptocurrency-related business in Spain.
Situation with the Rule of Law Spain ranks 23rd out of 113 countries with a total score of 0.7 in the Rule of Law Index. The conditions of the legal regulation of blockchain and cryptocurrencies are neutral, and since the values of the sub-criterion of the rule of law are high (0.7), the amount of the difference between weighted (multiplied by Rule of Law Index score) and unweighted assessments are not significant. This indicates high risks associated with the general conditions of compliance with legal safeguards in Turkey.
Enabling Infrastructure Environment
In 2018, Spain ranks 17th out of 193 countries in the UN E-Government Development Index rating (the country occupied the same position in 2016). In 2018, it is included in the Very High EGDI Index group and in the top 10 countries in terms of e-participation.
Spain has rather high business environment development indicators, ranking 28th in the world in the Doing Business rating.