EU failing allies by not banning Hezbollah in its entirety, MEP says
LONDON - EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, responding to an open letter from European parliament members calling for a full ban of Hezbollah, said it would be up to the European Council and EU members to make that designation.
Citing the complex political situation in Lebanon and the wider Middle East, Mogherini said the European Union “remains convinced that engaging in a constructive dialogue with all political parties present in the country and supporting Lebanon in strengthening institutions, including state security agencies and the Lebanese Armed Forces as sole security actors remains key for the stability of Lebanon and essential not only for the security of Europe but also of the Middle East.”
The European Union differentiates between Hezbollah’s political and military wings, with the latter designated as a terrorist group. Critics of the policy say that there is no clear delineation within Hezbollah between its political and military wings and that senior Hezbollah officials have consistently rejected that notion.
“Against this background, any decision that would amend the current terrorist designation would have to pay due attention to the situation described above,” Mogherini’s response concluded. “Ultimately, it would be a matter for the [European] Council and would have to be agreed by unanimity of the member states.”
MEP Lars Adaktusson, one of the initiators of the letter calling for the overall Hezbollah ban, was scathing in his reaction to Mogherini’s response.
“EU High Representative Mogherini speaks in the same sentence of ‘constructive dialogue with all political parties,’ which presumably includes Hezbollah, and ‘strengthening Lebanese institutions.’ This is an oxymoron,” he said. “Hezbollah is itself the source of instability and, by looking the other way, the EU is failing its allies in the region and imperilling the lives of European citizens at home.”
Adaktusson, a representative of Sweden’s Christian Democrats, earlier described the open letter, which was signed by 60 MEPs, as a “first step” towards having Hezbollah in its entirety designated a terrorist group.
Adaktusson said MEPs would go on stressing the danger posed by Hezbollah. “We will continue to sound the alarm on Hezbollah’s nefarious activities. Europe simply can’t afford to wait for another attack like the one Hezbollah carried out in 2012 on vacationers in Burgas, Bulgaria,” he said.
The Hezbollah attack on an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria in July 2012 resulted in the death of five Israelis and their Bulgarian Muslim bus driver. Another 32 Israelis were injured.
A special court in Bulgaria is conducting a trial in absentia of two Hezbollah operatives allegedly involved in the attack. A third Hezbollah operative is believed to have died during the assault.
The European Union designated Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group in 2013 in response to the attack but was clear to differentiate between the group’s political wing.
“It still baffles me that even after six lives were lost on European soil at the hands of Hezbollah terrorists, the EU’s foreign ministers couldn’t at the time agree to take a principled stand against terror,” Adaktusson said.
“Given Hezbollah’s role also in horrific war crimes in Syria, it has become only more urgent for Europe to ban Hezbollah in its entirety.”
The open letter outlined the threat the MEP’s said was represented by Hezbollah, including its role as an “accomplice” to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged war crimes, as well as its part in international drug smuggling and money laundering.
MEP Anders Vistisen, a representative of the Danish People’s Party, who co-wrote the letter, called for a follow-up to Mogherini’s response.
“In response to our call to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as terror org, @FedericaMog doesn’t rule out banning Hezbollah in its entirety, referring that decision is up to EU States. Given our fight against terror, I request @EUCouncil to follow up! #UnitedAgainstTerrorism,” he posted on Twitter.
The issue of Hezbollah being designated as a terrorist organisation comes ahead of a May 12 deadline by US President Donald Trump to European countries to work with Washington and improve the Iran nuclear deal. It is believed that one of the United States’ major demands is for the European Union — a signatory of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.
A March 22 report in the Jerusalem Post said Germany, France and the United Kingdom — JCPOA signatories — were in discussions with Trump over the nuclear deal, with Berlin reportedly the “least cooperative,” two sources familiar with the negotiations told the newspaper.
“This is a last chance. In the absence of a commitment from our European allies to work with us to fix the deal’s flaws, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal,” a US State Department spokesman said.