While European heads of state and government converged in the Czech capital, the eighth set of sanctions against Russia was validated in Brussels in the morning. It bans the holding of a referendum for the merger of the four regions of Ukraine, which is illegal in the eyes of the West, as well as increasing tensions. In particular, it provides for trade sanctions on Russian steel.
Belgium opted to abstain. “The question is how can we maintain the solidarity of European countries and our peoples to continue supporting Ukraine. Of course, given the military successes achieved by Ukraine (…) jobs, it will be difficult”, According to the head of the federal government. Belgium, however, denies obstruction, as “we do not wish to break European solidarity”, he said.
Belgium and more specifically Wallonia were concerned about new restrictions on the steel trade, arguing for some sort of transition. In the chamber on Monday, PS deputy André Flahout also mentioned the risk of factory closures: “If we accept this eighth package of sanctions, it is clear that the two factories in Belgium (of the Russian steel maker) NLMK , located in Clabec and La Louvier, will be directly affected”. The adopted package provides a maximum transition period of two years before finally banning the two semi-finished products “which would require some EU operators to diversify their supplies (outside Russia) in large quantities”, a European The officer explained.
Alexander de Crew, who spoke with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Chamaihal in Prague along with his Dutch and Luxembourgish allies, warned earlier in the week of the risk of an increasingly asymmetric effect of sanctions on some member states. “Sanctions have worked great so far, but the further we move into new measures, the more we talk about sanctions that will hurt our economy more than the Russian economy,” he said.
As far as the ban on importing Russian diamonds is concerned, it is still not part of the European sanctions. If it became necessary, Belgium would not oppose it, assured Mr. de Cru, but the region and the European Commission would have already agreed to significant cuts. According to the prime minister, Russian exports to Antwerp have declined significantly.
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