The 28-member European Union decided to put the military wing of Hezbollah on the EU list of terrorist organizations after receiving evidences of the Lebanese group’s terror activities on European soil, including the Burgas bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver just one year ago and the conviction by a Cyprus criminal court of a Hezbollah member for planning attacks against Israelis on the island.
The decision was taken unanimously on Monday at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels following a request by Britain.
In order to respond to concerns expressed by some countries over the consequences of blacklisting on the political stability in Lebanon where Hezbollah lays a role in government, the EU said the decision would not impact the current EU policy and engagement with Lebanon.
Experts were to meet Monday afternoon to discuss the practical and legal implementation of the political decision to add Hezbollah on the EU-designated terror groups.
While the blacklisting means asset freezes on entities and individuals associated with the group, an EU source said that the decision doesn’t include visa bans contrary to what an EU senior official said last Friday.
“It is good that the EU has decided to call Hezbollah what it is: a terrorist organization,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans. Holland is the sole EU member state to have designated Hezbollah as a whole a terror group in 2004.
“I’m satisfied that we took this important step today, by dealing with the military wing of Hezbollah, freezing its assets, hindering its fundraising and thereby limiting its capacity to act,” Timmermans said.
Before the EU ministers reached their decision, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that evidence from last year’s attack in Burgas should give enough impetus for the move. Westerwelle said that “we have to answer this, and the answer is” blacklisting Hezbollah’s the military wing.
“We should name names because time comes to tell the truth,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevicius, who chaired Monday’s meeting. “What was done by the military wing in the region and elsewhere I would say, there should be some reaction.”
According to EU sources, Hezbollah’s open involvement alongside Syrian governmental forces against the rebels may have helped harden EU opinion against it.
Israel welcomed the EU decision. “Finally, after years of deliberations, the claim that Hezbollah is a legitimate political party has rightfully failed,” said Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. “Now it is clear to the entire world that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.”
Bulgaria President Rosen Plevneliev welcomed the decision which, he said, “is a result of our joint efforts – of the EU member states and partner services for security protection of citizens.”
“It is also based on profound analyses of huge volume of information about the activity of people linked with terrorist acts on the territory of the EU. No one should underestimate the decisiveness of the European Union to protect the security of its citizens and people who reside on its territory.”
He added “Europe showed its policy of no compromise towards everyone daring to attempt on the life of citizens and threatens the security of innocent people on its territory. Today’s decision is a strong signal that the European Union will continue working jointly with the Lebanese institutions and to support democratic processes in the country.”
The full text of the communication reads as follows:
Former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov called the EU decision “an expression of solidarity with Bulgaria.”
“I would like to thank all Bulgarian services and institutions which worked with our partners in the EU, US, Israel, Australia, and Canada, not only to reveal who is behind the tragedy at the Sarafovo airport, but also to make sure that everybody in Bulgaria and Europe can feel stronger and more secure today,” he said.