PM De Croo blasts Col Housen’s claim Belgium is a sponsor of Russia’s war

PM Alexander De Croo (Flemish liberal) has responded to an attack on Belgium’s efforts to support Ukraine as it faces Russia’s aggression.  Speaking on VRT TV former Colonel Roger Housen earlier accused Belgium of being one of the main sponsors of Russia’s war.

PM De Croo says the Belgian government shares Col Housen’s conviction that Ukraine must win the war and that everything possible must be done to allow Ukraine to do so. However, the premier disputes the facts presented by the colonel.

Mr De Croo notes that by 31 January 2023, Belgium will have committed 325 million euros to the Ukrainian war effort.  That amounts to 0.06% of Belgium’s GDP. Roughly three quarters of that amount concerns military equipment; one quarter is humanitarian and medical assistance.

The premier points to the work of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy that keeps a Ukraine Support Tracker, which lists and quantifies military, financial and humanitarian aid promised to Ukraine by governments.  It covers 40 countries and allows a comparison of their efforts. Its current database spans the period between January 24, 2022 through November 20, 2022 and will be updated on February 15, 2023.

The premier insists Col. Housen’s claim that neighbouring countries and other countries with comparable economies such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark are doing at least ten times more than Belgium is factually incorrect. He says that according to the Kiel Institute’s database, on November 20, 2022, Belgium had spent 0.04% of its GDP on support for Ukraine, while the Netherlands spent 0.09%, Sweden 0.15%, and Denmark 0.18% and not ten times more, as Col. Housen claims.

Moreover, the Belgian effort on November 20, 2022 is comparable to that of its biggest neighbour France (0.05%) and other countries like Italy (0.04%) and Spain (0.03%) the Belgian leader notes.

 The Belgian government also disputes Col. Housen’s claim that the value of goods and services imported from Russia in the period between the end of February and the end of September 2022 rose by 130%. “It is factually incorrect” says Mr De Croo. “This increase is largely explained by the steep rise in the price of raw materials such as oil and gas.  On top of that, the bulk of our oil and gas imports is purchased by our neighbouring countries and is merely transiting Belgium.  Belgium only consumes 5% of LNG from Russia.  Yet, as Belgium is the point of entry for LNG for several other countries, the full amount is calculated in our trade balance”.

Mr De Croo also regrets Col. Housen failed to mention the fact that Belgium blocked Russian financial transactions to a total value of 191 billion euros and froze 58 billion euros in assets. It’s one of the largest amounts of all EU Member States and arguably the biggest per capita asset freeze in the world, the premier insists, arguing it is one of the most efficient ways to strike the Russian war chest at its heart. The Belgian government is looking into the possibility of using these funds to finance the reconstruction efforts in Ukraine.

The Belgian premier also considers the number of refugees Belgium has taken in. European Union countries have welcomed a total of 4.6 million Ukrainian refugees.  Belgium has taken in nearly 64,000 i.e. 1.3%.  The Netherlands welcomed 1.8%, Sweden 1.1% and Denmark 0.8%.

Alexander De Croo argues that on the basis of these facts, it can only be concluded that Belgium does its fair share to support Ukraine and Belgium unambiguously remains at Ukraine’s side, in the firm conviction it will win the war.

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