Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), The European Commission is gearing up for a crucial discussion this Friday, November 17, as it weighs a new series of sanctions against Russia. The goal is clear: to decisively address the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. For these sanctions to take effect, all 27 EU member states must agree. The plan is twofold: firstly, to ban Russian diamond imports, and secondly, to intensify sanctions on Russian oil.
Central to this approach is the proposed ban on Russian diamond imports. This bold move, estimated to impact a market worth $4-5 billion annually, is a response to allegations that Russia, in part, funds its involvement in Ukraine through its lucrative diamond trade. The EU’s ban would initially cover natural and synthetic diamonds, expanding to include jewelry by January, and eventually encompassing Russian diamonds processed in other countries by September.
Belgium, a key player in the diamond industry with its hub in Antwerp, initially hesitated but has now aligned with the G7 consensus with a suggestion to create a sophisticated tracking system to ensure the effectiveness of these sanctions while protecting its own diamond trade.
Moreover, the European Commission is set to reinforce sanctions on Russian oil. The proposal includes extending restrictions to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), butane, and propane, which are crucial for heating. However, the Commission resists calls from the European Parliament for a total ban on liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports, considering the EU’s heavy reliance on this energy source.
This debate gains complexity with a report from Global Witness revealing a 40% spike in EU LNG imports from Russia in the first seven months of 2023 compared to 2021, amounting to about 5.29 billion euros. This surge has stirred a dilemma: some member states fear indirectly funding Russian military efforts, while others worry about destabilizing the European gas market.
The proposed sanctions also include a new list of 120 Russian individuals and entities linked to the conflict in Ukraine. These targets range from those organizing unrecognized elections in occupied Ukrainian territories to propagandists and individuals accused of re-educating Ukrainian children.
Amidst this, Russian President Vladimir Putin faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court over allegations of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia, adding to the Kremlin’s international pressure.
As the European Union strives to strike a balance between enforcing sanctions and ensuring energy stability, the imminent discussions by the European Commission take on extraordinary significance. The world’s eyes are fixed on this gathering, expectant of a forceful response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. But amidst this show of unity and resolve, one critical question lingers: Will these new sanctions truly hinder Russia’s military efforts, or will Russia once again navigate its way around them?
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