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EU financial regulator publishes first post-MiCA proposals for digital asset service providers

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European Union’s financial markets regulator and supervisor, has published its first consultation package under the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation, which included proposals on how digital asset firms should handle complaints and conflicts of interest.

The 158-page July 11 consultation is the first major set of proposals to come after MiCA, which passed its final parliament vote in April and hands ESMA more powers to regulate the digital asset space.

MiCA won’t officially come into force until 2024, but Tuesday’s consultation is further evidence of a ramping up of efforts in the bloc to implement its far-reaching digital asset goals.

“This first consultation package is an important milestone for ESMA in the implementation of the MiCA framework. It translates our ambition to set high regulatory standards in the EU for crypto-asset related activities into concrete requirements,” ESMA Chair Verena Ross said.

The landmark MiCA regulation will provide digital asset-specific rules, classifications, and oversight, including reserve requirements for stablecoins, while giving wallet providers and exchanges the ability to operate across the 27-nation bloc with a single license.

Despite the optimism around MiCA from lawmakers and the industry, Ross also made the point—perhaps with the FTX fallout in mind—that the EU’s and ESMA’s new rules are not a cure-all and consumer safety is still a priority.

“We also want to remind consumers that, even with the implementation of MiCA, there will be no such thing as a safe crypto-asset,” he added.

ESMA stated that its aim with Tuesday’s consultation is to get input on a range of proposed rules, in particular, related to digital asset companies’ authorizations, identification and management of conflicts of interests, as well as how crypto-asset service providers (CASPs) should address complaints.

In addition, the financial regulator said the consultation, which invites comments from digital asset market stakeholders until September 20, 2023, is designed to “gather more insight on respondents’ current and planned activities, as a fact-finding exercise to better understand the EU crypto-asset markets and their future development.”

After the close of the consultation in September, ESMA will consider the feedback received, publish a final report and submit a draft of new “technical standards” to the European Commission for endorsement by June 30, 2023.

The regulator said it will also continue working to publish a second consultation package by October 2023.

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