All 28 European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to designate the armed wing of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The move will prohibit European financial contributions to the group, allow for the freezing of its assets, and deny visas to Hezbollah operatives. States must now enact appropriate legislation, leaving each nation to enforce their new laws as well.
Britain and the Netherlands pushed for the European-wide designation against Hezbollah after the 2012 bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria. The attack left five Israelis dead with another 32 injured. Israeli intelligence also provided the Europeans with information regarding the Lebanese group’s extensive involvement in the Syrian civil war, money laundering, and drug smuggling.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is escorted by his bodyguards on September 17, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
While the European governments refused to adhere to U.S. and Israeli urgings to place the entire organization, including its political wing, on their terror list, the White House praised the EU lawmakers’ decision as a step toward limiting Hezbollah’s operational capabilities. “The United States is proud to stand with the European Union on this front,” said U.S. Press Secretary Jay Carney. However, under the new status, diplomatic relations between the political leaders of the EU and the group are allowed to continue, creating uncertainty over who should be considered part of Hezbollah’s military wing or political organization.
Hezbollah’s leaders voiced their disapproval Tuesday over the EU’s designation, claiming the agreement was “written by American hands using Israeli ink.” Iran, one of the organization’s chief backers, also issued a condemnation. Despite the setback for the terrorist group, the EU’s distinction between military and political wings allows Hezbollah room to maneuver and will undoubtedly provide an obstacle for European officials seeking to enforce the new regulations.