The European Council has just announced that it has adopted the long-awaited Market in Crypto Assets Regulation (“MiCA”), the world’s first pan-national regulatory framework governing crypto-assets. The European Council’s adoption of MiCA, which has been on the EU Council’s mandate since November 2021 as part of a broader digital finance package, represents the final stage of the legislative process, following several trialogues between the three EU institutions.

MiCA’s main objectives are not only to foster innovation and enhance the appeal of the crypto-asset sector but also to protect investors and enhance transparency through a comprehensive framework for stakeholders in the cryptocurrency industry. MiCA provides legal clarity by defining the classes of crypto-assets (namely, asset reference tokens, e-money tokens, and other crypto-assets) and introduces frameworks for both issuers of crypto-assets and crypto-asset service providers (“CASPs”). The harmonised framework at an EU level should solve the fragmentation across Member States and allow issuers/ CASPs to benefit from passporting rights across the EU/EEA.

From a local perspective, we anticipate that there will be a smooth transition for operators currently licensed by the Malta Financial Services Authority under the Virtual Financial Assets Act (Chapter 590 of the laws of Malta) (“VFA Act”). MiCA and the VFA Act have both been largely modelled on the regulatory skeleton of MiFID II (Directive 2014/65/EU) – thereby rendering differences between the MiCA and the VFA Act as mere minimal subtleties.

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