A new trade body, providing thorough and level-headed regulatory understanding of virtual currencies, has been launched in response to increased government interest in Europe.

The Brussels-based European Digital Currency & Blockchain Technology Forum (EDCAB) is a public policy platform for digital currencies and distributed ledger technologies. It is also co-organising a flagship industry expo for policymakers in the European Parliament from 18 to 21 April 2016.

Virtual currencies have rapidly risen up the European policy agenda in all the major institutions. The Council of the European Union put virtual currencies top of a list of targeted areas for rapid progress at its February meeting, and has called for legislation to be tabled by the end of June 2016.

The European Parliament is preparing its own initiative report on virtual currencies, with the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs scheduled to vote on the report on 25th April 2016. Additionally, the Committee for Internal Market and Consumer Protection is also considering the issue later this month.

The European Commission has been considering regulation of virtual currencies through its Action Plan and proposals to combat terrorist financing, with legislation ready for the end of June.

Independent and non-profit EDCAB aims to shape a sound regulatory and policy agenda for virtual currencies and distributed ledger technology in Europe, with EU policymakers, legislators, regulators, and law enforcement in mind.

Behind EDCAB is founder Siân Jones, whose legal understanding around cryptocurrency is unparalleled.

Jones said in a statement: "For a strong and comprehensive policy and regulatory framework, collaboration based on in-depth understanding of the technology and open debate is vital. The creation of EDCAB signals the industry's commitment to work with policymakers over the long term to achieve positive outcomes for the sector and the European citizens it serves'.

The forum aims to provide a safe place to exchange views, and ensure policy decisions are made in full knowledge of the virtual currency and blockchain-industry business perspective. Membership is open to businesses, non-profit organisations, thinktanks, academic and research institutions, and anyone with an interest in virtual currencies and distributed ledger technology.

EDCAB, in conjunction with The Cobden Centre, is putting on a virtual currencies and blockchain technology event at the European Parliament in Brussels from 18 to 21 April 2016. The event, which is hosted by Syed Kamall MEP, will culminate in three roundtables, moderated by Jones for industry and policymakers.

Traditional financial-services players such as Barclays and NASDAQ will join representatives from Blockchain (of blockchain.info) and Circle Internet Financial from the fintech world, as well as participants from the World Bank, IMF, Bank for International Settlements, OECD, the European Securities and Markets Authority, and Europol.

Discussions will focus on 'Virtual currencies: The future of money' that lays out how Europe's economy might benefit from public and private alternatives to government-issued currency. Also up for discussion is the topic: 'Blockchain: Trusting distributed ledgers' which explore how technology might improve trade, economic prosperity, governance and the lives of citizens. A final roundtable will round things off with the discussion, 'Regulating virtual currencies and blockchain: A balancing act'.