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EU member explains why he refused to support anti-Russian sanctions – Reuters

Belgium abstained from voting due to likely damage caused by restrictions to its steel industry, Prime Minister De Croo told reporters

The Belgian government has explained why it decided not to approve a new round of EU anti-Russian trade restrictions.

Speaking on the sidelines of the European Political Community (EPC) summit in Prague, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told reporters that “As the economic cost of sanctions increases, it becomes difficult to show solidarity” to support Ukraine.

“The sanctions have worked very well so far,” the prime minister said, “But the further we go, the more we talk about sanctions that hurt our own economy more than Russia’s.”

His country therefore refused to back the eighth sanctions package when EU member states voted on it this week. Belgium did not vote against it either, because “we do not want to break European solidarity” De Croo was quoted as saying. A vote against the proposal by any EU member state would have prevented the package from being approved. Belgium would have been the only country to abstain.

Earlier this week, Belgian MP André Flahaut, who represents the province of Walloon Brabant, expressed concern about the impact of the upcoming sanctions on his constituents.

Two factories belonging to Russian metals giant NLMK, which are located in the Belgian province, may have to close, lawmakers have warned. The EU finally granted a two-year transition period to switch from semi-finished steel products originating in Russia to alternative supplies.

Belgium also feared that the EU would try to restrict the trade in Russian diamonds, which would have a potential impact on jewelery companies in Antwerp. Some news outlets reported that the country had blocked the proposed inclusion of such sanctions in the package.

Asked about Russian gemstones, Prime Minister De Croo said his government would not have opposed a ban, if it had been necessary, but the European Commission decided against it because imports from Russia had decreased considerably without any formal restriction.

Moscow responds to Macron’s push for a new ‘anti-China and Russia bloc’

Other EU members also had objections to the eighth sanctions package. Cyprus, Greece and Malta feared that the oil price cap would hurt their transport by tanker. Due to their objections, the final version stated that some ships would be banned from EU ports after six months, instead of the three originally proposed. Hungary has ensured that the price cap only applies to oil transported by sea and not by pipeline. To appease Italy, the EU also delayed the date on which the ban on steel imports from Russia would come into force.

The EPC is a new political club proposed earlier this year by French President Emmanuel Macron. The forum is meant to bring together EU member states and nations aspiring to be part of the economic bloc, as well as its traditional allies like the UK and Norway. The EPC leaders’ meeting in Prague is the first of its kind.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky addressed the rally via video link, urging attendees to provide more military aid to his country and hit Russia with more sanctions.

rt Gt

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