LONDON - The European Union has agreed on ground-breaking rules for regulating crypto assets, EU lawmakers said on Thursday, as the rout in bitcoin piles pressure on authorities to rein in the sector.
Globally, crypto assets are largely unregulated, with national operators in the EU only required to show controls for combating money laundering.
Representatives from the European Parliament and EU states thrashed out a deal on the markets in crypto assets (MiCA) law, which is expected to come into force around the end of 2023.
"Today, we put order in the Wild West of crypto assets and set clear rules for a harmonised market," said Stefan Berger, the centre right lawmaker who led negotiations on behalf of the parliament.
"The recent fall in the value of digital currencies shows us how highly risky and speculative they are and that it is fundamental to act," Berger said.
MiCA will be the first comprehensive regime for crypto-assets in the world and will contain strong measures to guard against market abuse and manipulation, added Ernest Urtasun, a Green Party lawmaker in the parliament.
The new law gives issuers of crypto assets and providers of related services a "passport" to serve clients across the EU from a single base, while meeting capital and consumer protection rules.
The United States and Britain, two major crypto centres, have yet to approve similar rules.
Crypto assets came under pressure after the collapse of TerraUSD and luna tokens last month, with major U.S. cryptocurrency lending company Celsius Network this month freezing withdrawals and transfers.
Bitcoin collapsed this month to around $17,600, and was trading around $18,900 on Thursday, well below its late March level of $48,200 as investors nurse losses.
Negotiations on Thursday focused on issues such as supervision and energy consumption of cryptoassets.
"We have agreed that crypto asset providers should in future disclose the energy consumption and environmental impact of assets," Berger said.
EU states will be the main regulators for crypto companies, though the bloc's securities watchdog ESMA will have powers to step in if investor protection or financial stability is threatened, lawmaker Urtasun said.
(Reporting by Huw Jones Editing by Mark Potter and Jonathan Oatis)