In the new European sanctions package against Russia, Antwerp's diamond sector seems to have been spared again, meaning that Belgian imports of rough diamonds from the country will continue.
While Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has repeatedly stated that Belgium would not block an import ban on rough diamonds from Russia, such a measure has again not been included in the new sanctions package proposed by the European Commission.
That package would ban an additional €7 billion of Russian imports, among other things, according to reports by Politico, which was able to see the (provisional) list. However, rough diamonds are not among the targeted products, even though Poland, Ireland and the Baltic states had recently strongly urged to follow the example set by the US and UK.
Hans Merket of the independent research institute IPIS told De Morgen that he finds it "hard to believe that Belgium has not stepped up the pressure on this file" because only one EU country benefits from the decision to leave rough diamonds off the list.
'Did not speak about diamonds'
Politico, too, stated that the lobbying work of Belgian diplomats is not in line with the public position. According to De Croo's cabinet, however, Belgium "did not speak out about diamonds" during the European talks. An import ban on Russian steel, which is already set to hit the Belgian economy very hard, will reportedly also be implemented – which may explain why the Antwerp diamond sector was spared.
In 2021, the Antwerp diamond sector imported $1.8 billion in rough diamonds from Russia, and the imports did not slow down in the months after the country's invasion of Ukraine, data from the National Bank show. While the figures remained approximately the same in March, April and May, June saw €394 million worth of imports – more than double compared to 2021.
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According to Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) spokesperson Tom Neys, however, those numbers do not reflect the tenor within the sector, as it mainly concerns diamonds that had already been purchased before the war.
The normal delivery process takes about three months, but has been severely disrupted by the invasion, he told De Morgen. In any case, the sector, as well as the federal and Flemish governments, continues to believe that an import ban is not useful because trade would then simply shift to other hubs in India or Dubai.