BERLIN – A discussion is under way within the EU about possibly listing
Hezbollah as a terrorist group, Austria’s Foreign Ministry informed The
Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
Austria appears to be the first EU country to
acknowledge that that the 27- member body has begun a process to designate the
Lebanese Shi’ite group as a terrorist organization.
Schallenberg, a seasoned Austrian diplomat, couched the process with caveats. “A
possible listing of the entire Hezbollah within the EU as a terror organization
must consider various political aspects,” he wrote.
He noted that
Hezbollah is not only represented in Lebanon’s parliament but is part of its
government, with two ministers in the cabinet.
“A listing of the
Hezbollah could, therefore, have immediate effects on the security of the
country and the stability of the government,” Schallenberg continued.
noted that Lebanon President Michel Suleiman seeks to create a “national
dialogue” in his country, with the goal of, for example, integrating Hezbollah’s
fighters and weapons into the state’s security forces. Schallenberg said that
the EU has up until now clearly supported Suleiman’s efforts.
that it is important that the EU find a “joint position, especially in light of
the situation in Syria.”
News organizations reported that Hezbollah’s
militias joined forces with Syria’s regime to suppress the Syrian
The division among EU countries revolves around whether to
designate the entire Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, or just parts of
Michel Malherbe, a spokesman for the Belgium Foreign Ministry, told
the Post on Thursday: “We believe that it could make sense, instead of qualifying Hezbollah
as a whole, to isolate armed subgroups, or individuals. This method has proven
its merits, and deserves a try.”
Critics of this approach (treating armed
wings separately from political branches) point to a statement from Hezbollah’s
No. 2 leader, Naim Qassem, who said in 2009: “Hezbollah has a single
leadership,” and “All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions
of this leadership.”
Qassem added, “The same leadership that directs the
parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle
The United Kingdom classifies Hezbollah’s military wing
as a terrorist organization, but recognizes its political wing as a legitimate
political party. The Netherlands designated Hezbollah as whole to be a terrorist
group. Both Dutch and British foreign ministers have urged their EU counterparts
to place Hezbollah on the EU terror list.
Jacek Biegala, a spokesman for
the Polish Embassy in Germany, told the Post last week that “Warsaw represents
the opinion that in the case of a ban of Hezbollah it is very important that the
European Union has a joint position.” What “is crucial” to an application to ban
Hezbollah is the reasoning of the argument, he added.
from the Finnish Foreign Ministry, wrote the Post by email on Friday, “At the
moment Finland has no national system that would list terrorists or terrorist
Instead, as a member of the European Union, Finland agrees
and implements the EU Council decisions in this regard.”
When asked if
Finland supports a ban of Hezbollah, Marttila declined to respond.
about the presence of Hezbollah members in Austria, Karl-Heinz Grundböck, a
spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry , referred the Post to a report
from the country’s domestic intelligence service.
According to the 2012
report, the Turkish Hezbollah group, which consists of non-Lebanese Kurds, is
listed as a terrorist organization, and was “able to expand its structures in
Europe and in Austria.” The Turkish Hezbollah group is aligned with the Islamic
Republic of Iran.
When questioned about the presence of Lebanese
Hezbollah members in Austria, Grundböck said Austria’s intelligence agency
(Verfassungsschutz) cannot provide information beyond what is stated in its
In late October, John O. Brennan, counterterrorism chief
for US President Barack Obama’s administration, slammed the Europeans for their
failure to outlaw Hezbollah. “Let me be clear” that European opposition to a ban
“makes it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens,” Brennan
said, speaking in Dublin •