Cryptocurrency in Greece: Decentralized Solutions in the Cradle of Democracy

Greece is known around the world for its beautiful scenery, delicious cuisine, and contributions to contemporary society. The development of the foundations of modern democracy places Greece among the most developed nations in the world. However, recently, the country has faced major social and economic upheavals.

The aftermath of the United States’ real estate crisis in 2007-2008 created waves that reached Greece’s coasts. The Greek public debt crisis in early 2010 signaled the start of nearly a decade of financial woes for the country. The crisis manifested itself in the shape of a tax on undeclared costs, the adoption of the euro, the global recession, and public pressure to overtax.

Then, with a run on local banks and capital limitations on international withdrawals and spending for the average person, 2015 was a particularly terrible year of the crisis. Greece’s international reputation shifted throughout this turbulent period.

Rather than sparkling beaches and the birthplace of modern society’s values, the country has been associated with riots and financial mismanagement. During this terrible time, however, numerous Greeks turned to additional sources of income to maintain their financial security. Decentralized solutions have become a response to an issue of crisis. Furthermore, the Greek crypto community shows a spirit of community that is intimately related to Greek culture, both in difficult and positive times.

Greece had to look for non traditional ways out of crisis. Source: Pexels

Concentrate on the community

There is always time to get together with friends and loved ones in Greece. The country’s community energy is strong, whether it’s for an extended coffee, a stroll around town, or a glass of local spirits. We turned to the local community to learn more about how the country is handling the expanding world of fintech while dealing with traditional financial problems.

Dimitris Tsapakidis, a Bitcoin maximalist, IT security specialist, and creator of the WeAcceptBitcoin website — a source of information on cryptocurrencies in Greece – is at the heart of it.

Mr. Tsapakidis is one of the few organizers of the MeetUp group named “Blockchain Greece”. It is an online and in-person community with over 2,700 members. While the global pandemic has forced online meetings, their in-person events have drawn large crowds and high-profile speakers, like Andreas Antonopoulos.

“This community goes back, I am told, to 2013. I joined in 2015. You may have heard of the banks closing in Greece in 2015, there was a bank run and then the banks closed for two weeks. It brought many, many people to Bitcoin. In 2015, it was all about Bitcoin and nothing else [referring to other cryptocurrencies]. Meetup dates and vending machines attracted a large crowd. Bitcoin ATMs arrived in the country since it was the only way to pay for things abroad and you couldn’t use your debit or credit card. Your Dropbox account, too. People flocked to Bitcoin at the moment, and there was an explosion of curiosity.”

Adoption and regulation!

Despite otherwise heavy taxes, the Greek government has avoided regulating cryptocurrency.

“The government, so far, has only implemented one law. This is the fifth EU-wide anti-money laundering directive, which all countries in Europe have implemented. However, this only concerns exchanges and ATMs, as well as all companies that hold cryptocurrencies,” Mr. Tsapakidis said. “About seven companies have registered with the government.”

However, as Dimitris pointed out, legalizing cryptomoannies and acknowledging them in government agreements gives them more legitimacy. “There is no mention of taxation in the law. I believe they are waiting for Europe to establish taxes laws. So there are no rules in terms of taxation. However, most accountants advise that you play it cautious. Declare capital gains, which are taxed at 15%, which is a very low rate,” he explains.

Dimitris details the Greek government’s policies and official opinions on cryptocurrency on his website. It is a significant Greek resource for local investors and businesses in the industry.

Greece crypto capital gains are taxed at only 15%. Source: Pexels

Cryptocurrency ATMs

The cryptocurrency “shops” set up by BCash, Greece’s main crypto ATM effort, have been a key element of bringing crypto into the hands of citizens. “Greeks are slowly learning to grasp crypto,” said Stratos Apostolidis, the firm’s market analyst. “It’s forward-thinking. In general, there are no programs in Greece to train or inform people, but the appearance of bitcoin ATMs gets people curious and question what they are. They learn from anything they saw on the road.”

BCash was the first to create dedicated stores in 19 locations on the mainland and two islands in Greece. Stratos said these locations provide investors with a physical space to buy and trade bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), and Dash (DASH).

“We assist many customers who are unsure how to convert fiat currency to cryptocurrency or vice versa. That way, it’s more personal,” he explains.

Stratos says there is a lot that can be done to help Greeks adopt cryptocurrencies, but community activities are crucial. “There are far too many things that could and should be accomplished. However, it is critical to speak with individuals and raise awareness among the local community. Even among my pals, none of them believed in or understood cryptocurrency at first. Almost everyone has altered their minds after viewing my work with BCash and speaking with me.”

Initially, Come Together started in 2019 as a “blockchain-based digital ticketing solution with QR code updates every 30 seconds to prevent fraud and scalping”. It was before the pandemic,” Panagiotopoulou said. “When the events sector came to a halt, we searched for a solution to handle the issue of COVID-19 secure events using the blockchain technologies we already had in place.” Come Together is currently employing blockchain-based digital health passports to troubleshoot COVID-19 security. “Blockchain provides a secure infrastructure that can’t be hacked by criminals looking to manufacture fake currency.”

The next natural step was to convert this into COVID-19 sanitary passes in order to ensure the authenticity of sanitary access control at events. Furthermore, the necessity to protect sensitive health data and adhere to GDPR regulations.” According to Ms Panagiotopoulou, the company conducted a pilot operation in Greece. “With an organization called Emergency Help, we ran an experiment in Greece.”

It’s still early

As Greece continues its many battles, both socially and financially, mitigating interactions with emerging technologies will be an important tool.

Growing community support and innovative solutions using emerging fintech are at the forefront of evolving opportunities for financial and technological freedom in Greece.

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