LONDON/BERLIN – The Austrian Foreign Ministry announced ahead of a Thursday
meeting in Brussels that the central European country will not oppose
blacklisting Hezbollah’s military wing.
Reinhold Lopatka, a state
secretary in the Foreign Ministry, told the Kurier newspaper that “Austria will
not prevent an agreement” on labeling Hezbollah a terrorist
The EU’s 28 members require unanimity to pass a measure
listing an organization as a terrorist group. Over the last year, Austria’s
position on the subject of Hezbollah’s blacklisting has moved from opposition to
undecided to support.
However, the Austrian diplomat noted that the
terror designation will not bar talks with politicians from
“Political dialogue with Hezbollah, which is represented in
the Lebanese government and parliament, remains in place ,” said Lopatka,
because, he added, that is the consensus of the EU.
Hezbollah militia as a terror organization is a” political signal of ostracism,”
Lopatka is slated to represent Austrian Foreign Minister Michael
Spindelegger at a gathering of EU foreign ministers on Monday. At the meeting,
the foreign ministers are expected to issue a decision on whether the EU will
formally sanction Hezbollah.
The EU will hold meetings this week ahead of
the meeting in an effort to marshal a consensus on including Hezbollah’s
military wing on its terror list.
There is cautious optimism among EU and
Israeli diplomats that Europe will sanction the Lebanese organization.
diplomat from a country in favor of a ban against Hezbollah said a “consensus is
clearly building” because “the evidence that it [Hezbollah] committed terrorism
on EU soil is strong,” AFP reported on Tuesday.
The diplomat appeared to
be referencing the evidence linking Hezbollah to a terrorist attack on an
Israeli tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, that killed five Israelis and their
Bulgarian bus driver in July 2012.
The EU’s ambassadors were slated to
meet in Brussels on Thursday to hammer out the required consensus.
some European politicians, however, a partial ban falls dramatically short of
the necessary action to rope in the European activities of the Shi’ite
Michael McCann, a Labor MP in the UK, told The Jerusalem Post on
Tuesday, “Hezbollah should be proscribed, full stop.”
“The simple truth
of the matter is that Hezbollah is Iran’s proxy and issued to exert its sphere
of influence over Lebanon and the wider region in whatever way possible. But
don’t take my word for it, the deputy leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Naim Qassem,
said in 2007 that all of Hezbollah’s policies including firing missiles into
Israel would not have taken place without the consent of Iran,” he
“It’s a scandal that the UK has only proscribed part of Hezbollah,
giving the impression that a distinction can be drawn between Hezbollah’s
terrorists and those that purport to be politicians. And it’s even worse that
the EU haven’t proscribed Hezbollah at all,” McCann continued.
hope these issues can be remedied, but if they are not, it will be an
extraordinary indictment of Western democracies – that while they will be tough
on any terrorist who breaches their borders, they will apply a weaker standard
to Hezbollah and the Middle East,” he said.
Charles Tannock, a British
member of the European Parliament for the Conservative Party, told the Post on
Tuesday, “I fully support efforts to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing, but
this will only partially solve the problem given that the military and civilian
wings are so closely entwined.
If you allow the civilian wing to continue
raising money, there is no guarantee that this will be ring-fenced and not reach
the military wing. The USA bans both the civilian and military wings.”
added that the issue is even more pressing given the ongoing Syrian
“There are also reports that money is being raised now in EU
territory and being sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon and possibly Syria... where
Hezbollah has over 1,000 fighters alongside Assad.”
Tannock said before
Austria’s recent comments that it – along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and
Ireland – has “has been holding out against EU designation because of concerns
about the safety of their UN troop contributions in the Golan Heights and
He said that France is ready to lend its support for
“France, which had previously opposed designation through
fears of destabilizing Lebanon [where Hezbollah is part of the government], is
now fully behind this measure, following the revelations of Hezbollah’s
involvement in the terrorist attack in Bulgaria against Israeli tourists, and
attempts to carry out an action in Cyprus, which was thwarted,” he
A Cypriot court convicted Hezbollah member Hossam Taleb Yaacoub in
March for plotting to kill Israelis and Jews on the island. Yaacoub, a dual
Lebanese-Swedish citizen, used Europe for his meetings with Hezbollah. The court
sentenced him to four years in prison.
Yaacoub told the Cypriot
authorities that he was collecting “information about the Jews. And that is what
my organization does everywhere in the world.”
Malta is widely believed
to be resisting labeling Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
Foreign Office told the Post that the evidence that Hezbollah’s “military wing
is a terrorist organization and committed terrorism on EU soil is compelling.
That’s why we and a large number of member states believe that their formal
listing as a terrorist organization is fully justified.”
for the British Foreign Office said it is working closely with EU countries on
the issue in hopes of reaching a robust, collective EU
Hezbollah’s attacks on European soil date back to the 1980s,
spanning deadly bombings in a number of Western and Central European
Canada, the United States, Bahrain and Israel recognize
Hezbollah’s entire structure as a terrorist entity.