Europe

The Belgian mood turns against Russian diamonds

ProDentim

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No one in Belgium wants Russian “blood diamonds” anymore, but the next round of EU sanctions still won’t ban them.

“Consumers don’t want to buy diamonds with blood on them,” said Vicky Reynaert, a leftist Belgian MP.

“Everyone knows what is done with Alrosa’s money [Russia’s biggest diamond firm] – it will directly fund the war against Ukraine,” she said.

Reynaert spoke to EUobserver after a Belgian parliamentary committee on Tuesday (April 25th) backed her resolution calling on the Belgian government to support an EU-wide embargo on Russian stones.

Aside from consumers in Reynaert’s focus groups, Belgian MPs also voted unanimously in favour.

And a plenary vote in two weeks should yield the same result, the MP said. “Everyone agrees with our reasoning,” she said.

The resolution is not binding, but will be an “important signal” that is difficult for Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo to ignore, she added.

The Belgian diamond market in Antwerp accounts for 40% of the 4 billion euros in annual diamond exports from Russia, creating 10,000 jobs.

The Belgian Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

De Croo has in the past said he would not veto a ban at EU level.

But, at the same time, Belgian diplomats argued that this would see the Russian gems go to Dubai and India instead, at no cost to the Kremlin.

And instead, Belgium has proposed a G7-level program to trace and stop purchases of conflict stones by the seven wealthy countries that control the lion’s share of the global market.

Poland and the Baltic states had called for an EU diamond ban in the next round of sanctions against Russia, expected in May.

But that was unlikely to happen given the G7 idea and even Poland was exerting little pressure to make it happen, an EU diplomat said.

For Reynaert however, the embargoes of the EU and the G7 should overlap.

“Let’s do both,” she said.

“We have to be clear – this business of Russian diamonds is based on Alrosa, which is part of the Kremlin. The Kremlin owns 33% of it,” she added.

“We know that he is financing the war. And it is difficult to explain to other economic sectors in Belgium why they have to follow EU sanctions, suffer losses, but the diamond sector does nothing at all”, said the MP.

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