European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels put an end to months of wrangling by deciding to place the military wing of the Lebanese Hezbollah on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations. But EU sources in Brussels warned against jumping to conclusions too soon saying “the question has not yet been formally adopted.” That process could take another two to three days, sources said.
In many ways this was a historic win for Britain and France, both of whom have been arguing for placing the Iran-supported Shiite militia and political movement in Lebanon on the EU’s terror list following a terrorist attack on a bus in Bulgaria a year ago in which five of the seven persons killed were Israelis. But the 28 member EU is notoriously divided on almost every aspect of how to deal with the Middle East, whether it has to do with Iran, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon or Syria.
The United States and Israel have both been pressing for the EU to place the Hezbollah on its terrorist list. In a debate lasting months, Ireland and Malta were the most reticent as was Austria which fears for the safety of its troops deployed as part of UN operations in Lebanon in areas under the direct control of the Hezbollah. The political wing of the Hezbollah is part of the government in Lebanon and the Lebanese government had officially tried to dissuade the EU from taking such a decision.
“We cannot allow the military branch of the Hezbollah to carry out terrorist activity in the European Union,” Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister explained.
The decision by the EU to place the Hezbollah’s military wing on its terrorist list means freezing its assets. But how to disentangle the military from the political is going to be a difficult question to resolve, EU sources said.
The EU’s Common Position (2001/931/CFSP) on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism includes a bunch of policy decisions and directives. These include directives on enhanced policing of certain persons or organisations, the freezing of assets, and other economic resources belonging to specific persons, groups or entities. In addition, it establishes that no funds, other financial assets and economic resources may be made available to them, whether directly or indirectly.