October 30, 2023
For immediate release
Today, a gathering of over 40 people from Ukrainian and Belgian NGOs took place in front of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Razom We Stand delivered an open letter signed by 23 Ukrainian NGOs, addressed to the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Energy Van de Straeten, and Prime Minister De Croo, demanding a ban on Russian LNG transshipments. A small delegation from the NGOs, which included Razom We Stand Campaign Manager Oleh Savytskyi, was received by Minister Lahbib's cabinet.
In the open letter, Razom We Stand, on behalf of 23 Ukrainian NGOs, directly appealed to the Belgian Federal Government, urging a complete ban on Russian LNG transshipments in all EU harbours, including the Zeebrugge LNG terminal, similar to the measures already enacted by the Netherlands and the UK.
The letter emphasizes that Belgium, as one of the main hubs for Russian gas, is contributing to the Russian war chest.
“How can the Belgian government, on the one hand, state they are against the Russian brutality done to us, while on the other hand allowing the port of Zeebrugge to be a critical link in Russia’s fossil gas export expansion? There is no excuse for not implementing a transshipment ban now", said Oleh Savytskyi, Senior Campaigns Manager at Razom We Stand.
“Belgium should stop funding the war in Ukraine by providing an LNG transshipment service to Russian gas giant Novatek, a company that is providing mercenaries to the Russian Army that commits countless war crimes in Ukraine. If democracy and sustainability are about to prevail in Europe, then governments should rein over the companies who rush for quick profits at the expense of human rights/lives. Russia’s liquified natural gas export expansion must be stopped”, said Olena Kuzhym, Co-lead of Advocacy at Promote Ukraine.
Belgian environmental and peace organizations are currently in ongoing discussions with their government.
The Ukrainian letter and today's action have the backing of Belgian environmental and peace organizations, including Vredesactie, Bond Beter Leefmilieu, Greenpeace, and Tegengas/Dégaze. A delegation of representatives was received by Minister Lahbib's cabinet.
Regarding the meeting outcomes, the activists shared that after sustained pressure from NGOs, Energy Minister Van der Straeten has expressed her willingness to explore possible options to prevent Russian LNG from entering the port of Zeebrugge. The NGOs have already proposed a ban on transshipments. We received the same commitment to dialogue at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose mandate includes sanctions and trade. Today, Ukrainian and Belgian NGOs stand united: for us, intentions are not enough—real action is needed!
“We noticed that the staff were touched by the testimonies from Ukraine, and they promised to pass on our question to the foreign minister. Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten, after sustained pressure, already indicated that she wants to look at options for a complete ban. We have been asking this question for more than a year, so we urge action to make those intentions come true”, says Angelos Koutsis Energy Policy Officer at BBL.” said Angelos Koutsis, Energy Policy Officer at BBL.
“Russia plans to triple their arctic LNG export by 2030, just to get more access to international markets, a move implying disastrous environmental and climate effects. The fact that the EU and specifically Belgium are facilitating this expansion with transshipment services in our own ports is beyond explanation and in contradiction to the Paris Climate agreements.”
“Russia is expecting 700 to 800 million euros in tax revenues alone linked to LNG transshipments in Zeebrugge in 2023. Just 7% of that gas is heading to EU markets. The 50 million euros a year the Belgian gas company Fluxys receives for this service seems to be the only reason to maintain this cooperation. That’s not acceptable. Trade relations should protect and nurture human life instead of financing crimes against humanity.” said Mattijs Van den Bussche, campaigner at Vredesactie.
Notes to editors
Pictures from today's demonstration outside the Belgian Ministry for Foreign Affairs can be viewed here.
Ukrainian group Razom We Stand, founded at the beginning of Russia's war in 2022, campaigns to end the war by cutting Russia's exports of fossil fuels, has continuously advocated for a comprehensive and fully enforced embargo on Russian fossil fuels and works towards a green rebuilding of Ukraine with clean energy, for a better climate and better future.
Learn more here: https://razomwestand.org/en/about-us
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