Beginning with the federal government's blockchain strategy, the topic of blockchain has finally slowly made its way into political circles. The topic is certainly not the top priority for most MEPs, but something is slowly happening at the regulatory level. One of the MPs who dealt more intensively with the topic of blockchain is Mr. Dieter Janacek from the Greens. In my opinion, the Greens deal with the topic relatively intensively and have an exchange with industry leaders in Berlin on the subject of "What can blockchain do? "Organized. I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Janecek on the phone. We discussed some questions about blockchain as a driver of digital innovation and talked about the need for regulation.
AS: Mr. Janacek, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions! To what extent have you personally come into contact with the topic of blockchain? Have you tried the technology yourself and may you even own coins?
Dieter Janecek: So personally I haven't bought any coins yet, but when the media hype started, I found out about the relevant websites. E.g. via Ethereum but also via other currencies. Otherwise I am in contact with the scene, especially through the Blockchain Bundesverband and also individual companies that want to advance the technology. However, I was not keen to experiment myself.
AS: How present is the topic of blockchain actually in politics and in the Bundestag? You hear right and left now and then that things are moving ahead, but do you have the necessary skills to make laws meaningful?
Dieter Janecek: Well, the question is what framework we should set for the development of blockchain technology or whether political intervention in the market is advisable at all here. What is known to us, or at least to those who deal with the topic, is that there is a strong scene on this topic in Berlin. On the other hand, of course, we also have problems in the area of energy, i.e. proof-of-work concepts, which we also address. Personally, I look less at the finance area, but am interested in the application options in the cloud, in the public area or in development cooperation. First of all, finding areas of application is exciting, but as politicians we naturally also take a look at the interests and ideology behind the technology.
AS: Now some parties already have more, others less blockchain experience and concepts. The Greens are at the forefront. Where do you see the focus of the Greens and are there already differences between the approaches to make Germany an attractive location for blockchain companies?
Dieter Janecek: First of all, our approach is that we want to make it possible that blockchain technology is used and that projects in the Federal Ministry of Research or, for example, in administration are implemented. These can be simple pilot projects to demonstrate what can be done with the technology. That is why we have a progressive approach that we are pursuing and the federal government is also in the process of developing a blockchain strategy. We hope that we will be heard there. Otherwise, of course, we have the energy issue already mentioned, which concerns us as Greens. If blockchain technology is used extensively and this problem is not solved, i.e. you have to put a lot of energy into mining, this will result in a problem. Then I won't let myself be convinced by the argument that it could be provided on the basis of renewable energies. In such a constellation, it would be difficult for me as a politician to say that this would still be in the public interest.
AS: Compared to other locations, especially those related to ICOs, Germany is currently less interesting compared to Switzerland or Liechtenstein from the perspective of many projects. This is partly due to the difficult and slow regulation and the bureaucracy. From your point of view, how specific should good regulation on the part of the state be?
Dieter Janecek: I think it should come first of all. This is where I see the real point: that we need one. This should enable ICOs to be made easier in Germany. We currently have an uncertainty framework and that is bad. Otherwise, and I don't really want to say anything about it, we need a look at the overall scene. For example, some ideas that the euro can be replaced by cryptocurrencies or the idea that all intermediaries are bad and everything is only done on a decentralized basis of trust – I think that's a dangerous ideology. Because there is a little more to it, namely that you want to switch off the state, so to speak. In my view, this is needed to keep an economy within the framework of trust.
AS: Now it's about using blockchain technology. Where could you imagine applications of blockchain technology in the public sector or at the state level, e.g. in bureaucracy?
Dieter Janecek: So definitely in individual areas of digital administration. Perhaps also in the school education cloud, so that there is corresponding transparency between the actors. Otherwise, also in the area of development cooperation, that's a strong topic. There are, for example, the first approaches to reorganizing communities in Kenya with blockchain technology to reorganize them or to create value for goods where the currency is declining or credit cards are too expensive for most. But also in the energy transition, it would be a possibility to create a decentralized energy network in which actors communicate directly with one another and no intermediary is needed anymore. There are a number of ways in which blockchain-active markets can also serve the common good.
AS: Are there already initial pilot projects that are being worked on?
Dieter Janecek: As far as I know, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is working on launching the first pilot projects. There are also initial areas of application in the energy sector, but I am now also overwhelmed by what they are. In fact, it is currently difficult to find real applications that can already show us that this will work in 1-2 years and have added value.
AS: A particular concern of many German investors is tax-related. There is great uncertainty here and there does not seem to be a uniform treatment of the individual tax offices. Can the clarification of the uncertainties regarding tax come at the same time as the regulation for ICOs and what do you think should this look like?
Dieter Janecek: As a first step, we need the same standards that apply to everyone. As long as there is uncertainty, it is very bad for the players and the market. As Greens should now be the tax prerequisite in individual cases, we Greens do not yet have a ready-made concept. We would like to see a uniform treatment, but I cannot give you any information about which it should be.
AS: How would you finally evaluate the work of the federal government in the field of blockchain and what would you like to see implemented and maybe even realize in the coming years?
Dieter Janecek: Well, the topic was pretty much in the media hype when the coalition agreement was concluded and it was then decided to give yourself a job. The corresponding talks are also ongoing and as parliamentarians we were also in contact with the Blockchain Federal Association.
There is a lobby, but the results are still missing and we are therefore very excited about the next few weeks. Then the results and a strategy should be presented. The question of tax treatment is then very central to this topic. Regarding the question of our ministries, our requirement would be that individual projects be implemented or tried out to show what is possible.
AS: Thank you for the interview!
In addition to the blockchain federal association already mentioned, the FinTechRat is currently also heavily concerned with the topic of blockchain. The FinTechRat is a body of the Federal Ministry of Finance and consists of a mixture of decision-makers from established and new fin-techs and associations (members include Prof. Dr. Philipp Sandner from Frankfurt School and Dr. Julie Maupin from IOTA Foundation). The Council has also determined that blockchain technology will be essential for Germany in the future and has recently taken a position in a statement on the work of the Federal Government in this area . One of the key messages of the document is also that there should be regulation at European level as soon as possible (in order to avoid conflicts in the regulation between the member states), which is technology-independent (ie detached from the technical implementation and in particular "detached from a concrete expression of the used ones Blockchain technology “p.2) is. In addition, training in the field of blockchain should be particularly promoted. New areas, such as the interface between law and IT, should also be taken into account.
Overall, I believe that the topic of regulation has reached politics. Inquiries from the Greens and the FDP also show that things are still going too slowly and that there are still far too few employees in the various ministries and offices on this subject. I suspect that the first significant result in the foreseeable future is a sensible regulation of ICOs and STOs – however, I doubt whether this will finally clarify the tax issue. With the Bundesverband Block, we definitely have a strong lobby that will hopefully speed up the issue somewhat at the political level. At this point, I advise everyone who is more interested in the topic to simply google relevant keywords – further interviews with various politicians and the inquiries of the parties to the Federal Government are very easy and are very revealing.
Note: The telephone interview was conducted on April 8th, 2019. When converting from conversation to text, slight changes were made in the sentence structure – the meaning was retained in any case. The photos are press photos from Mr. Janecek's website (photographer Stefan Kaminski).