Josep Borrell (High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) hopes the 27 member states will decide on an additional sanctions package against Russia by mid-October, which might also include an import ban on Russian diamonds. But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants to do away with sanctions.
The foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries believe there should be a new sanctions package against Russia. This was announced by Josep Borrell after a meeting in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Until recently, there was little appetite among member states to extend sanctions, but the High Representative for Foreign Policy says the EU must respond to Putin’s plans to annex territories in eastern Ukraine through referenda.
Names will almost certainly be added to the sanctions list. The Commission is also considering additional export controls on technology that could be used for military purposes. And it may look at how the EU can introduce the price cap on Russian oil that the G7 agreed on 2 September. It is not clear how that can be reconciled with the embargo on Russian oil products that comes into force at the end of this year.
The import ban on Russian diamonds may also be back on the table. Poland and the Baltic states are pushing for it; the Commission is likely to test the idea in “confessional talks” with the capitals. That would be bad news for Antwerp’s diamond sector, which still imported $1.8 billion worth of rough diamonds in 2021. The Belgian and Flemish governments have been arguing for months that the measure does not make much sense as the trade would quickly move to India and Dubai. At the same time, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Belgium would not block such an import ban.
Foreign ministers will meet in Luxembourg on 17 October. Then, according to Borrell, they can formalise the package. Since the Hungarian minister did not oppose it in New York, Borrell assumes Budapest will not put obstacles in the way. But during a speech, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he will push for the lifting of European sanctions by the end of this year. According to pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet, he said that “the sanctions are the cause of inflation and the energy crisis” and imposed by “Brussels bureaucrats“. The Hungarian government plans a poll on the usefulness of the sanctions.
Image courtesy of European Commission