STA, 11 January 2020 - Slovenia has launched SiChain, a blockchain infrastructure platform, to become the first EU country to have a pilot blockchain infrastructure system in place at state level. SiChain technology aims to facilitate blockchain technology use for companies and state agencies, and could be used for document verification as well.
The pilot project, which was launched in December last year, is designed to test blockchain applications by the state, companies, local communities and research agencies.
It is run by the Economy Ministry in cooperation with the EU Commission, with the project's infrastructure being devised by blockchain firm HashNet and telecoms provider Telemach.
The deployment timeline depends on EU Commission-approved pilot projects. As soon as they are given the go-ahead, development of prototype models will start, Telemach has told the STA.
Theoretically, there are three development phases spread across this year. Initially, transaction testing and capacity measurements are to be carried out, followed by a second phase developing more complex applications and expanding the network to the state and international levels.
The third phase is expected to create links between networks and public use.
In general aim is to implement transactions and smart contracts using hashnet technology, a distributed data block technology that is considered energy and time efficient.
SiChain could potentially be used to verify marriage certificates and other documents, standardise student ID cards, for electricity market transactions, and inter-governmental contracts within the EU.
The EU Commission has earmarked EUR 10 million for the project's pilot stage, but the actual figure depends on the proposed and approved project, according to Telemach.
"The total amount which the EU will allocate for the development and implementation of blockchain technology in the next five years, is estimated at EUR 300 million," said the telco.
European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) is one of the key European Blockchain Partnership projects, developed by the EU Commission in cooperation with member states and blockchain experts.
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STA, 16 December 2019 - Just over a year after its launch, the Ljubljana-based European Blockchain Hub, a cooperative designed to act as a platform bringing together blockchain stakeholders, has declared bankruptcy. The District Court of Ljubljana called on creditors to report their claims by 13 March.
Founded in October 2018 with the aim of facilitating the development of blockchain technology and start-ups based on "European values and principles of good corporate governance", the cooperative never really took off.
Its demise mirrors the general fortunes of blockchain itself, a technology that was seen as holding vast potential but became mired in fraud and unfulfilled promises.
This is despite the cooperative having been backed, at least in the initial stages, by 13 supporters, including the Slovenian government, educational and research institutions, and shopping mall operator BTC City.
Director Blaž Golob said the main reason why the cooperative had to enter bankruptcy was because some stakeholders had failed to deliver.
"One of the partners would have had to push ahead, the Tolar HashNET team, but that never happened. BTC was the best partner and invested EUR 50,000 in the project, but it did not want to be the only one," he told the business daily Finance.
Tadej Slapnik, former advisor to the government and long the main proponent of blockchain in government, meanwhile told the paper that stakeholders disagreed with Golob's management and stepped down from positions at the organisations one after another other.
Two years ago, December 2017, blockchain mania reached its peak as the price of Bitcoin hit an all-time high. This pulled up the valuations of a dizzying number of other tokens and start-ups, a fair few based in Slovenia – with the country receiving over 5% of global investments in blockchain projects – and introduced the wider world to terms such as FOMO, HODL and “to the moon”. The mass hysteria may have waned as prices fell and observers became more familiar with terms such as "buy the dip", "exit scam" and SFYL, but the underlying technology is still around, and Slovenia is still punching above its weight on the scene.
Ljubljana is the home of BTC City, which is and isn’t “BTC City”, as the name is unrelated to the abbreviation for Bitcoin, but it does still promote itself as a brick-and-mortar location where such “money” can be spent, as well as hosting the European Blockchain Hub...which today (16 December 2019) declared bankruptcy.
The latest news in this regard is last week’s announcement, made by the Government Communication Office, that the country has launched a national test blockchain infrastructure, SI-Chain, which will enable testing of existing and new applications for the public and private sector. Not only is Slovenia the first EU Member State to establish such infrastructure, but the only the second in the world, after China.
SI-Chain was set up by the Hashnet in cooperation with Telemach in November. Hashnet owns one of the fastest and most energy-efficient distributed ledger technologies in the world, and the managing director of the Slovenian branch, Tadej Slapnik, has said that the goal of the project is to integrate the technology into the business models of companies and public services.
The news is related to the 2018 call from the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology for demo/pilot projects in 2018 that would receive support from €73 million of EU funds, with the foci being on blockchain, AI and other converging technologies (IoT, big data, ML, predictive analytics, AR, VR, MR, 3D and so forth). Some of the aims in supporting these projects will be to help the government create regulatory solutions for specific industry verticals using blockchain, the introduction of smart contracts into Slovenian corporate law, and with regulation of digital entities and regulatory sandboxes for different fields of industry and the public sector.
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1 September 2019 - Eligma is a Slovenian blockchain company that launched in 2018, and one aim of the firm is to make cryptocurrencies part of daily life, and thus of shopping. To this end it has produced Elipay, an infrastructure for accepting crypto payments (in Bitcoin Cash, ELI, Bitcoin and Ether) that ensures the merchant always receives settlement in the local fiat currency. It is this service that has drawn the attention of Roger Ver’s Bitcoin.com and the Swiss firm Pangea Blockchain Fund, which together will invest €4 million in the Slovenian start-up.
According to a press release, it is Elipay and the related app that have made Slovenia the leading country in the world with regard to the number of brick-and-mortar stores and service providers that accept both regular money and crypto. The investment is aimed at helping Elipay expand beyond its current markets of Slovenia and Croatia, where more than 430 businesses now accept crypto currencies on a daily basis.
Eligma CEO Dejan Roljic is quoted as saying: “The development of finance is going towards cash becoming a thing of the past. Among other things, this is because doing business with it is quite time-consuming and expensive. On the other hand, one of the main problems with cryptocurrencies is that the confirmation of transactions can take several minutes if not more, which is unacceptable in daily shopping. Eligma effectively solved this problem with Elipay, which enables instant crypto transactions; furthermore, the merchant receives settlement in local fiat and is thus safe from crypto volatility. This makes the use of cryptocurrencies quick and effective for daily use. We must not forget that cryptocurrencies were envisioned as the electronic cash of the future.“
Shopping with Elipay is said to be very easy: the buyer scans the purchase QR-code with a crypto wallet, selects the cryptocurrency they wish to use and confirms the transaction. The current list of Elipay locations can serve more than 20,000 users of the Elipay app, along with some 4 million users of the Bitcoin.com Wallet, with other crypto wallets expected to join the system soon. Users of Elipay can also benefit by receiving Eligma (ELI) tokens with every purchase they make. The all-time high of the token was US$0.050306 on 5 September 2018, and it is currently trading at US$0.021759.
April 25, 2019
On Tuesday the Noordung Centre in Vitanje hosted an event titled Noordung Forum: Building European Blockchain Infrastructure. The forum was organised by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, the Noordung Hub and Tolar Hashnet, a blockchain developer.
Names worth mentioning from the crowd of representatives of business and states that attended the event are certainly Tadej Slapnik, a member of the former Prime Minister Cerar’s cabinet and the cabinet of MEP Ivo Vajgl, and currently the director of Tolar Hashnet; Minister of Culture Zoran Poznič; European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc; and Member of European Parliament Ivo Vajgl. The event was announced by Nena Dokuzov, Head of the Project Group for New Economy and Blockchain Technology of the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia. Nena Dokuzov is also a member of the European Blockchain Partnership and a former director of the Noordung Centre, a post she took following the controversial takeover of this originally privately owned establishment by the government.
The debate focused on various hypothetical uses of blockchain, with an underlying consensus on the “ground-breaking” and “world changing” characteristics of the technology. The event then climaxed with the launch of the Tolar Hashnet TestNet, which is basically yet another coin.
This one, however, is based on “advanced” blockchain technology which is “scalable” and “100% secure”. Meaning, the system of Tolar has abandoned a classical blockchain mining component and moved towards a more efficient and therefore centralised system with just a few global nodes calculating the code chain. This allows for faster code processing and hence more daily transactions. Its capability however is still nowhere close to the functional level any means of exchange must meet in order to support the velocity of money.
Therefore, crypto currencies for now remain “digital currency schemes”, exhibiting key features such as being “assets, the value of which is determined by supply and demand, similar in concept to commodities such as gold, yet with zero intrinsic value” (BIS definition according to source, p. 21). Meaning that any returns on investment rely mostly on bringing more investors into the scheme. Of course this wouldn’t have worked, if it didn’t come with a good story, which provides its members with a sense of superiority (as the “technologically advanced” ones) and moralising tools of recruitment: saying “no” to blockchain (i.e. refusing to invest in crypto) means to be technologically uneducated and socially irresponsible, since blockchain is here to somehow bring back democracy and is also – according to Tadej Slapnik from Tolar Hashnet – environmentally friendly.
Things seem to have changed drastically since the Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies (KSEVT) was launched in Vitanje in 2012. The main emphasis of the project was not on technological advancement of space travel per se, as such a purely utilitarian stance quickly brings military-oriented goals while the function of human in space is to survive and follow protocols, hence reduced to the dilemma of Is it really a human or is it a robot?.
KSEVT’s project of space culturalization was inspired by the father of astronautics, Herman Potočnik Noordung, who spent most of his childhood in either Maribor or Vitanje, his mother’s birthplace. In 1929 Potočnik published his single but ground-breaking work The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor, in which he applied his engineering ingenuity to explore life in space from a humanistic perspective. His wheel-shaped space station inspired many to come, notably the design of the “Space Station V” in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
KSEVT was well accepted not just by proud local descendants of the space travel pioneer, but also by the international space agencies and astronauts, such as Sunita Williams, who visited and participated in several of events in Vitanje.
In 2014, KSEVT was transformed from a private institute into a public municipal institute, to become eligible to apply for public funding at the national and not just municipal level and in the same year also received some funding from the Ministry of Culture. However, the Ministry was not happy with KSEVT’s report on how the money was spent, which eventually led to the government takeover. The original founders were removed, and Nena Dokuzov from the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology was named acting director.
In 2017 Nena Dokuzov established Noordung Blockchain Hub cooperative which attempted to register and operate from the Noordung Space Center in Vitanje. In early 2018 members of municipality council in Vitanje unanimously rejected Noordung Blockchain Hub’s request on the grounds that Cryptocurrencies do not have much in common with culturalization of space, the main activity of the Noordung Centre.
In 2018 Dominik Kobolt replaced Nena Dokuzov as the acting director of Noordung Space Centre. As evident from the latest events, attempts at the colonisation of cultural space by cryptocurrency salesmen continue with full support of Slovenian government officials and their representatives in the European Union.
STA, 23 April 2019 - Blockchain experts from around the globe came together in the town of Vitanje on Tuesday to discuss the future of blockchain infrastructure at the Herman Potočnik Noordung Centre of Space Technologies. Attending the forum, European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc underlined that the technology should be a tool of democracy.
Organised by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, the Noordung Hub and Tolar HashNet, a blockchain developer, the event featured representatives of businesses and states from the EU, as well as Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.
Bulc believes that this technology represents one of the key steps in introduction of TCP/IP protocols as the foundation of the internet as we know it today.
"I wish that the developers of this global trend would not forget that this is a tool that should serve the democracy and a positive development of the human race and improve cooperation among people, because it helps improve the efficiency of all systems in which we operate," the commissioner said.
The European Commission is concerned above all about the role of regulators and what standards needed to be introduced to ensure that these systems remained open, said Bulc.
She believes the technology could be the most useful in finance, but also in healthcare and state administration. Among other things, Bulc hopes that online elections could become reality across the EU.
At the forum, Tolar HashNet presented its new generation blockchain technology, which makes it a global leader in the field. CEP Tadej Slapnik said that companies across the world would be able to develop applications for the private and public sectors using the company's technology.
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STA, 8 March - Young Slovenian businessman Damian Merlak, who has made more than 100 million euro with last year's sale of Bitstamp, one of the world's largest crypto currency exchanges, has bought four run-down hotels in the Alpine valley of Bohinj, north-western Slovenia, for 8.4 million euro.
Merlak bought Zlatorog Hotel, Bohinj Hotel, Bohinj Apartment Hotel and Ski Hotel Vogel, at excellent locations near Lake Bohinj, from businessman Zmago Pačnik and his family, news portal Siol reported on Friday.
While it did not report how much Merlak paid for them, business newspaper Finance said the deal, involving the purchase of three firms managing the hotels, was worth 8.4 million euro.
Back in 2016, the Pačniks wanted to sell them for 15 million euro, putting the highest price tag of seven million euro on Zlatorog Hotel, which needs the most repairs.
Merlak told the STA he had bought the hotels to renovate and re-launch them. The ones being leased will continue to operate in the same way, while the rest will be managed by his team after renovation.
He also noted the 43-room Zlatorog Hotel, located above the lake and closed since 2011, would be the most demanding project.
It is not only in an extremely poor condition, having been stripped bare over the past few years, "but also unsuitable for 2019 in terms of design", he added.
The value of its renovation will depend on which of the variants architects are working on is chosen, but "I'd be very happy if Zlatorog is ready for use in two years' time".
Bohinj Hotel, situated by the lake, has 20 rooms and 34 suites. Bohinj Apartment Hotel with 27 self-catering units is said to be in a state similar to Zlatorog's.
The 28-room Ski Hotel Vogel is located some 50 metres from the ski slopes on Mount Vogel above the lake.
According to Siol, the hotels used to be managed by the Alpinum company, which the state sold cheap to the Pačnik family in 2002.
The Pačniks had been leasing them and invested practically nothing into them, so the Bohinj municipality had urged the state to take measures to save them from ruin.
For Merlak, the hotels are not his first investment in Bohinj. In 2016 he bought the Tuba self-catering units near the well-known Savica waterfall.
Even before that, he and his former Bitstamp partner Nejc Kodrič bought several farms with 1,300 cattle. He also bought a veterinary clinic.
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STA, 8 January 2018 - The business newspaper Finance examines on Tuesday the remnants of the crypto craze that gripped Slovenia at end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, arguing that "not much is left": several companies that turned to ICOs for funding went bust, while others barely live on.
"Not a single token [released in Slovenian ICOs] has managed to stay above the price with which they entered the crypto market. This means that anybody who participated in any Slovenian ICO project and has not sold its tokens, has lost their money," the paper notes.
There were many ideas in various fields, including banking, auditing, payment services, supply chains and car rentals, and some still persist, but "it is becoming crystal clear that they did not join the hype to solve the problems but because it was easy to raise funds".
"I do believe that the intentions of most crypto entrepreneurs were not bad and that they really wanted to do something good.
But their wish was powered significantly by the fact that they could play without their own input, that is with the funds of others," the paper goes on under Without a Light at the End of Cryptotunnel.
"If they would have had to take out a loan to embark on their business path, nine out of ten companies likely would not have had emerged," says Finance.
"On the other hand, many who left the cryptoparty in time got rich and earned enough in a couple of years to be covered for the rest of their lives. Some even entered the ranking of the richest Slovenians.
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