Nobody in Belgium wants Russian “blood diamonds” any more, 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 Belgian left-wing MP.
“Everybody knows what’s being done with the money by Alrosa [Russia’s biggest diamond firm] — it’s going directly to finance the war against Ukraine”, she said.
Reynaert spoke to EUobserver after a Belgian parliament committee, on Tuesday (25 April), backed her resolution calling for the Belgian government to support an EU-wide embargo on Russian stones.
The consumers in Reynaert’s focus groups aside, Belgian MPs also voted unanimously in favour.
And a plenary vote in two weeks’ time is expected to deliver the same outcome, the MP said. “Everybody agrees with our reasoning,” she said.
The resolution is non-binding, but will be an “important signal” hard for Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo to ignore, she added.
Belgium’s diamond market in Antwerp hoovers up 40 percent of Russia’s €4bn diamond exports, creating 10,000 jobs.
The Belgian foreign ministry could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
De Croo has, in the past, said he wouldn’t veto an EU-level ban.
But, at the same time, Belgian diplomats have argued it would see the Russian gems go to Dubai and India instead, costing the Kremlin nothing.
And instead, Belgium has proposed a G7-level scheme to trace and stop purchases of conflict stones by the seven wealthy countries that control the lion’s share of the world market.
Poland and the Baltic states had proposed an EU diamond ban in the next round of Russia sanctions, expected in May.
But this was unlikely to fly given the G7 idea and even Poland was applying little pressure to make it happen, one EU diplomat said.
For Reynaert however, the EU and G7 embargoes should come on top of one another.
“Let’s do both,” she said.
“We have to be clear — this trade in Russian diamonds relies on Alrosa, which is part of the Kremlin. The Kremlin owns 33 percent of it,” she added.
“We know it’s financing the war. And it’s difficult to explain to other economic sectors in Belgium why they have to follow EU sanctions, suffering losses, but the diamond sector is doing nothing at all,” the MP said.