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Russian diamonds lose their sparkle in Europe – POLITICO

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In the European bubble in Brussels, diamonds aren’t anybody’s greatest pal anymore. 

The Belgian authorities’s reluctance to ban imports of Russian diamonds, which might harm the town of Antwerp, a worldwide hub for the dear stones, has outraged Ukraine and its supporters throughout the EU.

Ukraine has been pushing to cease the import of Russian tough diamonds as a result of the commerce enriches Alrosa, {a partially} state-owned Russian enterprise. 

While such a crackdown wouldn’t inflict the identical injury on Vladimir Putin’s economic system as a prohibition on all fossil fuels, for instance, the persevering with move of Russian diamonds has turn into an emblem of Western nations placing their nationwide pursuits above these of Ukraine. 

New plans for a contemporary spherical of sanctions in opposition to Putin have now reignited the controversy over the morality of Europe’s commerce in diamonds from Russia. 

Belgium is fed up with being scapegoated. According to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Putin’s capacity to promote diamonds to all western markets now must be shut off. 

“Russian diamonds are blood diamonds,” De Croo mentioned in an announcement to POLITICO. “The revenue for Russia from diamonds can only stop if the access of Russian diamonds to Western markets is no longer possible. On forging that solid front, Belgium is working with its partners.” 

The West’s financial warfare in opposition to Russia has already had an affect. Partly due to U.S. sanctions, the Russian diamond commerce in Antwerp has already been severely hit. But these tough Russian diamonds are diverted to different diamond markets, and sometimes discover their means again to the West, reduce and polished.

That’s why Belgium is working with companions to introduce a “watertight” traceability system for diamonds, a Belgian official mentioned. If it really works, this might harm Moscow greater than if Washington or Brussels are flying solo.

“Europe and North America collectively signify 70 p.c of the world marketplace for pure diamonds,” the official mentioned. “Based on this market energy, we are able to guarantee the required transparency in the worldwide diamond sector and structurally ban blood diamonds from the worldwide market. The warfare in Ukraine offers for a robust momentum.”

Sanctions ultimately?

Belgium’s offensive comes simply when its place on sanctioning Russian diamonds is below renewed assault — not simply from different EU nations and Belgian opposition events, but in addition inside De Croo’s personal authorities.

According to Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Putin’s capacity to promote diamonds to all western markets now must be shut off | Laurie Dieffembacq/Belga Mag/AFP through Getty Images

The EU is preparing a brand new spherical of sanctions in opposition to Russia forward of the primary anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Countries equivalent to Poland and Lithuania are once more urging the EU to incorporate diamonds. However, one EU diplomat mentioned the dialogue is now extra an “intra-Belgian battle than a European one.”

De Croo leads a coalition of seven ideologically various events. The greens and socialists inside his authorities are pushing him to actively foyer for hitting diamonds in the following EU sanctions spherical.

In specific, Vooruit, the Dutch-speaking socialist social gathering, is making a renewed push. Belgian MP Vicky Reynaert might be introducing a brand new decision in the Belgian Parliament proposing an import ban. 

“It’s turning into not possible to elucidate that Belgium is just not open to blocking Russian diamonds,” Reynaert mentioned. “We need Belgium to actively interact with the European Commission to take motion.” Belgian socialist MEP Kathleen Van Brempt is pushing the identical thought on the European stage.

But the initiative from the socialists is not more likely to ship an import ban, and even import quotas, 4 officers from different Belgian political events mentioned. De Croo is now set on a world answer as a substitute. No one expects the socialists to destabilize De Croo’s fragile Belgian coalition authorities over the problem of diamonds.

Even if all seven events in the Belgian authorities did comply with hit Russian diamonds, there could be one other key impediment.

In the sophisticated Belgian political system, the regional governments would have a say as nicely. The authorities of the northern area of Flanders is in opposition to an import ban. That authorities is led by the Flemish nationalists, whose social gathering president, Bart De Wever, can be the mayor of Antwerp. “Nothing will change their minds on this,” one of many Belgian officers mentioned of the nationalists’ place.

Blood diamonds

Belgium hopes that by constructing a world coalition to hint Russia’s “blood diamonds” it’ll lastly cease being seen as a roadblock to motion. 

The business agrees. “Sanctions are usually not the answer,” mentioned Tom Neys of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. “An worldwide framework of full transparency, with the identical requirements of compliance as Antwerp, could be that answer,” he mentioned.

Such a transatlantic plan would have a huge effect, in response to Hans Merket, a researcher with the International Peace Information Service, a human rights nonprofit group. “That would have rather more impact than the present U.S. sanctions, that are being circumvented,” mentioned Merket.

But the satan might be in the main points. Will Belgium succeed in constructing a transatlantic coalition? Are customers prepared to pay extra for their diamonds, or does it nonetheless danger diverting the products to different markets the place merchants are much less diligent?

One of the Belgian officers was uncertain of Belgium’s probabilities of success. If the worldwide alliance falters, Belgium and the EU ought to think about shifting forward on their personal to persuade the remainder of the world to behave. “But let’s give De Croo a shot at this,” the official mentioned. 

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