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news 21 Jul 17

Kosovars Warned About Using First Bitcoin ATM

Kosovo is about to get the first virtual currency ATM in the Balkans - but the central bank has warned potential users that they cannot expect much protection from the law.

Die Morina, Naim Krasniqi, Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Pristina, Tirana
Physical Bitcoin. Photo: Flickr/Antana.

Kosovo will soon become the 57th country in the world - and the first in the Balkan region - to operate a virtual money ATM, according to Albvision Ltd, the company that delivered the machine.

In a press release distributed in Kosovo and Albania on July 17, the company said that Tirana and Skopje will be the next two destinations where these kinds of ATMs will be placed. 

According to a statement, the first-ever Bitcoin ATM will be placed in the centre of the Kosovo capital, Pristina.

Its first transactions will be in Bitcoin and then after some time also in ten other so-called crypto-currencies.

But while some are excited by this apparent breakthrough, legal issues suggest the country is far from ready to take full advantage of the use of crypto-currencies. 

Kosovo's Central Bank, KCB, has warned that the use of the virtual "Bitcoin" money entails risks, as the use of virtual currency is still not regulated by law in Kosovo.

"We inform all potential virtual money users that in the Republic of Kosovo there is no institution guaranteeing the reimbursement of money that is lost," a statement from the KCB warned.

In an interview for Top Channel TV, on Wednesday, the head of the Supervision Department of Bank of Albania, Deniz Derralla, said people need to be careful about companies pushing for the use virtual currencies.

“The exchange rate could change very quickly, as it's an unstable currency with no one responsible for it.  Conventional money is emitted by Central banks, while in the case of Bitcoin and other virtual ones, there is no institution that takes responsibilities for them,” he said. 

Valmir Hazeri, chief operations officer at Bitsapphire, one of the few companies that works with crypto currency in Kosovo, told BIRN that the risks are over-stated.

“The risk is the same; a user can lose money if they do not know how to use it. But this ATM will create possibilities for Bitcoin to have more users. The biggest risk is not knowing how to use it," he said.

According to him, Kosovo “should work faster on regulating crypto currency by law - and why not even create our own, as Canada or China did?”

Hazeri, whose firm has accepted payments in Bitcoin since 2014, admits they often had troubles in cashing their money because banks in Kosovo do not accept virtual money.

“Kosovo Banks do not accept Bitcoin, so we had to use international banks, which accepted and then transferred the money in Kosovo,” Hazeri explained.

He added that “even though the international banks sent the payment in euros, some Kosovo banks still did not accept the money because of its anonymous origin.”

On March 3, BBC reported that "a unit of the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin has exceeded the value of an ounce of gold for the first time."

The report stated that "the value of Bitcoin has been volatile since it was first launched in 2009, and many experts have questioned whether the crypto-currency will last."

Currently, one Bitcoin is worth more then 1,900 euros.

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