The European Union should ban Russian diamonds in its next sanctions package, German nonprofit Transparency International said the [week of July 4] in an open letter to officials.
“No profits from precious stones should directly or indirectly finance the Russian government and its aggression against sovereign states, and no Russian kleptocrat should be able to enjoy luxury goods while innocent Ukrainian civilians are under attack from Russian bombs,” the organization wrote Tuesday.
Unlike the US, the EU has not barred the import of Russian diamonds, for which Antwerp is one of the most important markets. In 2021, around 36% of Alrosa’s revenue came from Belgium, according to the miner’s most recent annual results.
Transparency International, based in Berlin, works to eliminated corruption and promote transparency. Most of its funding comes from government agencies, according to its website.
Writing to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, as well as other political figures, the group noted that Russian rough diamonds had not been included in any EU sanctions to date. Such materials help finance the war in Ukraine, it argued.
“Banning the import of diamonds, which is in the top 10 of non-energy exports by value, can be an additional step limiting Russia’s access to global markets and foreign currencies,” said Michiel van Hulten, director of Transparency International EU, and Thomas Vermaerke, executive director at Transparency International Belgium. “We therefore urge you to include diamonds in the next, seventh sanctions package. The banning of diamonds will have a comparably small effect on the EU compared to the Russian treasury and Russian diamond companies.”
Such a ban must encompass subsidiaries and affiliated contractors of diamonds companies, and must also cover polished diamonds manufactured in a country other than Russia, they added.
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) reiterated its long-held position that sanctions would not solve the problem.
“Although we understand the severity of the situation, it shouldn’t be the ambition to make things worse,” said Tom Neys, head of media relations at the AWDC. “Completely cutting out the EU will only create the black market for which we worked so hard for to avoid the past 16 years. You will be responsible for a catastrophic geopolitical disruption that will create a huge disadvantage for the EU in natural resources.”