EU sanctions are back on the table. Will they work?

Joshua Freedman

The bloc is considering a quota or other restrictions on Russian diamonds. Industry members and politicians claim only a global effort will have an impact.

The European Union (EU) is considering placing caps on imports of Russian rough, according to media reports and sources that have spoken to Rapaport News. The bloc is discussing a 10th sanctions package ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine invasion. After escaping nine rounds, Belgium’s trade in Alrosa goods is back in the spotlight.

Yet many sides of the debate claim the measures would have minimal impact. Shipments of Russian diamonds to Antwerp have already slumped because of US consumer preferences and rough buyers’ difficulties making payments, making quotas pointless. And without an international approach, Russia would still be able to sell into the market through other channels, according to critics.

If the cap fits

It’s unclear exactly what sanctions European Commission officials are looking to introduce. One of the options is a limit on imports of Russian diamonds at 30% of prewar levels, according to Belgian newspaper De Morgen. Another is a system for tracing the goods so the market knows where they’re from, the report said.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo appeared to have gone a step further, saying the country was working with “partners” on blocking access to Russian diamonds across Western markets, current-affairs site Politico reported.

Pressure is building on the EU to do something. Earlier this month, Lucara Diamond Corp. CEO Eira Thomas called for sanctions in an interview with the Financial Times. Even De Croo — who has previously said Belgium would not oppose measures but that they would only help rivals such as Dubai — publicly referred to Russian goods as “blood diamonds” last week.

Meaningless move?

Imports of nonindustrial Russian diamonds to Belgium have fallen by around 80% since July 2022, according to estimates from EU insiders.

If they are thinking about a quota [of] 30% of the trade in Russian diamonds compared to the beginning of that war, it’s more or less nothing, since the trade already dropped hugely,” Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian member of the European Parliament and a supporter of full sanctions, told Rapaport News.

This decline is because of the US’s partial ban as well as retailers’ and shoppers’ unofficial boycotts.

Most consumers, if they would know they were wearing Russian diamonds, would not want to make that sort of investment,” according to the politician, who represents the social-democratic Vooruit (Forward) party and lives in Antwerp.

International approach

EU sanctions without global cooperation would merely push the goods to other centers, according to opponents of the plans.

Read full article

Source Rapaport