EU head office proposes rules stop flow of conflict diamonds into Europe

The European Union’s head office announced plans Thursday to introduce a single set of rules for Europe to stop the trade of conflict diamonds used to fund civil wars in Africa, the Associated Press reported.

If adopted by the 15-nation bloc, new rules would come into effect by 2003 requiring all imported shipments of rough stones to contain certificates of origin, the AP reported. The proposed rules will go beyond the so-called Kimberley Process, an international policing system agreed to by more than 30 governments over the past year.

They are meant to ensure the stones are not taken from mines controlled by African governments or rebel groups using profits from selling the gems to fund their military campaigns.

“Traceability is the catchword here,” Anthonius De Vries, of the European Commission, reportedly said. “It will be practically impossible for a fraudster to sell his diamonds. (The importer) is going to have to furnish facts that the diamond was properly imported.”

The proposed EU system will be closely based on existing monitoring schemes already adopted in Antwerp and London, which control the lion’s share of the world’s rough diamond market, the AP reported.

The Belgian port city of Antwerp handles 80% of world trade in rough diamonds and half of trade in the cut gem.

The worldwide production of rough diamonds was worth $7.5 billion in 2000, much of it from Botswana, South Africa, Canada, and Russia.

The plan foresees that after the arrival of sealed shipments of rough diamonds, re-export certificates would be issued for each subsequent movement of the stones until they were cut into finished jewels, the AP reported.

In addition, diamond producers and traders have agreed to regulate themselves. Each sale of diamonds will be accompanied by a warranty on the invoice stating the stones don’t come from an area where rebel forces are using them to finance a military campaign against a legitimate government, the AP reported.

The Kimberley Process of talks on conflict diamonds began in May 2000, and it led to an unlikely coalition of diamond traders and marketers, human rights activists and officials of countries that produce and import diamonds.

It’s estimated that conflict or “blood” diamonds make up about 3% of the annual global diamond trade. The profits from this shady trade is said to have paid for weapons and equipment that prolong bloody uprisings in places such as Sierra Leone.

De Vries said participants to the Kimberley process would meet again in November, in Geneva, Switzerland, to work out final details of the international certification plan.