(photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)
Government officials in Jerusalem accused Ireland on Wednesday of leading
opposition inside the EU to placing Hezbollah, or at least its “military wing,”
on the European Union’s terrorist black list.
According to the officials,
Ireland – which holds the EU’s rotating presidency – was supported in this
position by Sweden and Finland at a working group on Tuesday that debated the
A consensus of the EU’s 27 states will be needed to blacklist
Hezbollah’s “military wing,” a move now even backed by Germany and
In the past these two countries have opposed this step, arguing
that it could destabilize Lebanon, make European contact with Beirut more
difficult and endanger the UNIFIL troops stationed there.
There are some
11,000 UNIFIL troops in Lebanon, including 1,097 from Italy, 878 from France,
701 from Spain, 359 from Ireland, 155 from Germany, 153 from Austria and 104
Britain, which in the past held contacts with what it calls
Hezbollah’s “political wing,” launched efforts last month to get the EU to
blacklist the group’s “military wing.” These efforts have picked up steam in recent weeks because of Hezbollah’s increased involvement in the Syrian civil
Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels was the first formal meeting at the
request of the British.
A spokesman at Ireland’s embassy in Tel Aviv,
when asked if his country was indeed spearheading opposition to the move, said
that a formal proposal to designate the “military wing” of Hezbollah had been
made by one member state “and is currently being considered within the relevant
working group known as CP931, which Ireland chairs as the current EU
The spokesman said that an initial discussion was held on
Tuesday, and that further discussions would be required to see whether the
working group “can arrive at an agreed position on the proposal.”
meeting, the spokesman said, was scheduled to take place within the next couple
He did not reveal Ireland’s stand on the
However, one Israeli government official who said Dublin was
leading the opposition charged that this position was “unusual,” given that
Germany, France and Spain – which all have large contingents in UNIFIL – now
back the move.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Austria was also
opposed, while Lebanon’s Daily Star reported that Italy was leading European
The claim of Italian opposition was dismissed by Israeli
government officials as “unsubstantiated rumors.” A formal request to the
Italian Embassy in Tel Aviv for a response went unanswered.
Bulgaria reversed ground
and said on Wednesday it now only had an “indication”
that Hezbollah might have been behind last summer’s terrorist attack in Burgas
that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver, and that this alone did
not justify any EU move to list it as a terrorist group.
Socialist-led government backed away from charges by its center-right
predecessor that Hezbollah had carried out the attack.
“It is important
that the [EU] decision be based not only on the bombing in Burgas, because I
think the evidence we have is not explicit,” Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin,
whose government took office last week, told national state radio
“There is an indication that it is possible [that Hezbollah was
behind it], but we cannot take decisions with important consequences for the EU
based on indirect data. If we have enough serious proof from other cases, then
we will not waver to back such a decision,” Vigenin said.
the Bulgarian authorities were pursuing their inquiry into the attack and would
keep EU governments informed.
The Burgas attack, and a similar type of
attack that that was foiled in Cyprus and led to the arrest and conviction there
of a Hezbollah man, spurred efforts to get the EU to blacklist
The EU has refused US and Israeli appeals to place Hezbollah
on its terrorist list for more than a decade.
In February, the previous
Bulgarian cabinet urged European governments to take a harder stance toward
Hezbollah, after blaming it for the Burgas attack.
The Socialists, then
in opposition, accused the center-right government of rushing to implicate
Hezbollah without proof and exposing the Balkan country to more terrorist
attacks.Reuters contributed to this report. •