Open letter calling for EU to ban Hezbollah a ‘first step,’ MEP says

Sixty members of the European Parliament signed the letter to EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
Sunday 04/03/2018
Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in eastern France, last October. (AFP)
Feeling threatened. Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in eastern France, last October. (AFP)

LONDON - An open letter from European MPs calling for the European Union to designate Hezbollah a terrorist group is a “first step” in a broader process, one of the letter’s initiators said.

Sixty members of the European Parliament signed the letter to EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

“For us, this is certainly only a first step. The letter underlines that there is a growing recognition in Europe that Hezbollah and their Iranian masters pose a serious threat,” MEP Lars Adaktusson said.

The letter outlined the threat the writers said is represented by Hezbollah, including its role as an “accomplice” to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged crimes, as well as in international drug smuggling and money laundering.

The European Union designated Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group in 2013 following an attack on an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria in July 2012.

“We believe that making a distinction between Hezbollah’s ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings is illogical as it is a notion Hezbollah’s senior leadership themselves consistently and publicly reject,” the letter said.

“Moreover, removing the distinction would put the EU more in line with international consensus as the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Israel, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League all have proscribed Hezbollah in its entirety.”

The letter was signed by 60 members from across the European Parliament political divide. Adaktusson, a representative of Sweden’s Christian Democrats, hailed the letter’s cross-party support.

“I believe it was extremely important that the letter was from the beginning a cross-party effort, showing that this is not just the concern of one particular political group but is seen across the political families in Europe as a serious challenge,” he said. “Political action is always much more likely in the EU if one can count on support from all relevant stakeholders.”

MEP Anders Vistisen, a representative of the Danish People’s Party, who also co-wrote the letter, said it was past time that the European Union recognised the danger posed by Hezbollah.

“I find it outrageous that the EU still has not denounced Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation. Hezbollah’s growing arsenal and entanglement in regional conflicts severely destabilise certain countries and the wider Middle East,” he said.

The letter warned that Hezbollah had amassed at least 150,000 rockets in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

“I believe that it is high time to acknowledge that Islamist-inspired terrorism is not only a threat to the Middle East but is also the top threat to Europe’s security,” Vistisen said.

Adaktusson said the letter’s signatories were awaiting a response from Mogherini.

“It’s too early to gauge the letter’s impact. We are expecting High Representative Mogherini to respond to our initiative and start a serious discussion in the EU about the dangers Hezbollah poses not just to regional security but to safety of Europe,” he said.

“I will certainly continue my efforts to protect European citizens from this threat and to show a united Western front against terrorism, no matter where it comes from.”

It is traditional for the EU high representative to respond to open letters of this kind, although not obligatory. If Mogherini does not respond to the call to ban Hezbollah, it is likely that an MEP would table an on-the-record question on the issue.

Given the increasing threat represented by Hezbollah, particularly in Europe, many observers clamoured for a change in the European Union’s policy towards the group.

“As the letter spells out, there are close to 950 Hezbollah members alone in Germany and German police have raided the homes of Iranian spies preparing potential terror attacks on Israeli and Jewish sites,” Adaktusson said. “So the dangerous Iran-Hezbollah nexus is no longer ‘just’ a problem for the peoples of the Middle East but for us in Europe as well.”

Vistisen said he would continue campaigning against Hezbollah. “I will follow the cross-party initiative by sustaining pressure during committee meetings and bilateral meetings with relevant stakeholders,” he said.

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