It seems the wild-east for the cyber-currency bitcoin is not China but here in Europe.
It is increasingly finding favour in one of the European Union’s poorest countries – Romania.
There is even a bitcoin ATM, or cash machine, in the capital, Bucharest, with more planned.
In addition, Romania’s first bitcoin exchange, in the western town of Oradea claims to have more than 2,000 clients in the seven months since it opened, with transactions totalling the equivalent of 1.1 million euros in that time.
Romanian Bitcoin’s boosters do though admit a legislative framework would be useful.
“It is an industry in its early stages,” said George Rotariu, who opened the ATM in Bucharest in collaboration with Vancouver-based Bitcoiniacs and plans to expand to more Romanian cities. “You need a legislative framework to supply services or have a business in this field,” he said.
“We groped around in the legislation and interpreted some policies,” said Horea Vuscan, a local politician who owns the Oradea bitcoin operator BTCXchange.
“We are now in talks with officials because I don’t know where we fit in, a bourse, bank, money transfer firm.”
Regulators are concerned. “Using bitcoin in Romania is not regulated and carries very large risks,” said the Romanian Financial Supervision Authority (ASF). “The risk of fraud is also not to be ruled out.”
It said the industry “would need to have a visible economic significance in Romania, which it does not”, before regulation is considered, adding it would enforce any EU-approved rules.
In July, the European Banking Authority, the EU’s banking watchdog, urged national policymakers to discourage credit and payment institutions from buying, holding, or selling virtual currencies pending a regulatory framework.