EU politics affecting blacklisting Hezbollah

Officials say resistance to mark Hezbollah as terror organization is due to EU lifting Syria arms embargo.

June 25, 2013 01:21
2 minute read.
Prime Minister with the EU Ambassador

Bibi with EU Ambassador 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)

Resistance by some European Union countries to placing Hezbollah’s armed wing on the EU’s terrorist list is due more to internal EU politics than opposition in principle to the move, according to both EU and Israeli officials.

According to the officials, the opposition of the Czech Republic – perhaps the most friendly country to Israel inside the EU and the only one that voted against granting non-member statehood status to the Palestinians at the UN in November – has to do in part at frustration with the way France and Britain succeeded against the will of the majority member states in May to lift the EU’s arms embargo on Syria.

“The impression is that there is a degree of settling accounts with the big European countries because of what happened regarding the Syrian arms issue,” one senior Israeli official said.

A European official confirmed this impression and added that the Czechs, and other smaller EU countries, were annoyed at the way Britain and France “rammed through” the Syrian sanctions.

The EU arms embargo on Syria was not extended in May because a consensus could not be reached on the matter.

European and Israeli officials said that – in addition to the Czech Republic – Ireland, Austria, Poland, Finland and Slovakia have reservations about placing Hezbollah on the terrorist blacklist for a variety of different reasons. The 27 EU countries were unable to come up with an agreement on the matter at two working group meetings held earlier this month.

One official said that the EU countries pressing hardest for the inclusion of Hezbollah’s military wing on the list – Britain, the Netherlands, France and Germany – have “divided up the labor” in lobbying the stubborn countries to support the step.

For example, Britain and France are focusing on softening Irish opposition.

One of Ireland’s concerns is that its large UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) contingent would be the target of retribution were they to support blacklisting Hezbollah. France, the officials said, is arguing that they too have a large UNIFIL contingent, but are still backing the proposal.

The Dutch are trying to convince the Poles, Czechs and Slovaks.

According to one official, some of the opposition is being couched in legalistic terms; regarding whether there is enough evidence to link Hezbollah to last years attack in Bulgaria.

Israeli officials said that with Ireland set to relinquish the rotating presidency of the EU to Lithuania on July 1, it may be a bit easier for countries pressing the Hezbollah proposal to get it moved forward.

Likewise, one European official said that the anniversary of the terrorist attack in Burgas on July 18 may be an opportune time for the Europeans to announce a decision on the matter.

Hezbollah has been listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and, most recently, Bahrain.

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