Report: Bitcoin gains ground in Romania

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Could the formerly communist economy in Romania prove to become one of Europe’s bitcoin strongholds? Reuters reports today that there has been a decidedly high level of interest in a newly launched bitcoin ATM in downtown Bucharest. The ATM may be new, but bitcoin’s appeal in the country isn’t.

As one of the handful of European Union countries that has not joined the Eurozone, opting instead to stick with the Romanian leu rather than adopting the euro, bitcoin has a unique potential there. As Reuters notes:

Tech-savvy and still deeply distrustful of officialdom 25 years after the end of communism, many Romanians are unfazed by warnings about the cryptocurrency. … In the western town of Oradea, 370 miles (595 km) away from the capital, the first bitcoin exchange in the country has drawn more than 2,000 clients in the seven months since it opened, with transactions totaling 5.12 million lei ($1.57 million).

What’s the appeal? Reuters notes that Romania is the second-poorest state in the E.U., and is also considered to be one of the weakest countries in the region for the collection of taxes. Additionally, fraud and corruption in the country are major concerns, as is economic instability and the fragile value of the leu. With the Eurozone economy facing its own issues at the moment, and Romania’s earliest entry into the euro-accepting community unlikely until 2019, Romanian citizens seeking a stable, easily acquired currency have cast their gaze on bitcoin.

Reuters notes that the number of local businesses now accepting bitcoin in the country is rapidly rising, hinting that Romania might be on the verge of becoming a bitcoin haven in a still-skeptical Europe. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. The local regulatory authorities have little context for a bitcoin-based business.

“We groped around in the legislation and interpreted some policies,” BTCXchange operator Horea Vuscan told Reuters. “We are now in talks with officials because I don’t know where we fit in, a bourse, bank, money transfer firm. … I want to bring bitcoin to street level, I want everyone to have a phone app where they keep their coins and use it everywhere, in coffee shops, restaurants, grocery shops, just like a regular wallet.”

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