Dividing Hezbollah: Canada, Israel and US vs the EU

A year after Hezbollah’s deadly attack in Burgas, the political landscape of Europe’s counterterrorism policies has profoundly changed.

Hezbollah supporters (photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)
Hezbollah supporters
(photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)
BERLIN – A year after Hezbollah’s deadly attack on Israeli and Bulgarian civilians, the political landscape of Europe’s counterterrorism policies has profoundly changed. The EU debate has moved from a question mark over whether Hezbollah as a whole is a terrorist group, to carving the organization into a terrorist, military wing and a separate political arm.
Bulgaria’s former foreign minister Nikolay Mladenov told The Jerusalem Post that political consideration plays a role in demarcating Hezbollah’s structure.
“I believe that a listing of the military wing is important because it focuses the responsibility on those who use terror as a weapon. This has been the approach adopted by the UK as well. Hezbollah is also a political party in Lebanon, many people vote for it. I am sure they don’t vote for it to see their children die in the service of Assad’s war against the Syrian people, or be engaged in terrorist acts in Europe or elsewhere.”
The EU’s trans-Atlantic partners, Canada and the US, which list Hezbollah’s full organization to be a foreign terrorist entity, want the EU to dislodge all Hezbollah activity from Europe. A telling example of Hezbollah’s longstanding fundraising and recruitment activities was documented in an extensive 2009 report published by the European Foundation for Democracy.
The EFD report revealed that a German intelligence agency concluded that Hezbollah “built up a structure in Germany in particular, that covers almost the entire country. The ‘Hizb Allah’ supporters who live here conceal their activities.”
Germany hosts a network of Hezbollah mosque associations and charities that funnel money to Hezbollah’s organization in Lebanon.
The debate between North America and the EU over designating Hezbollah’s entire movement – or a slice of the organization – as a terrorist entity reached the Arab Gulf countries on Wednesday. While Bahrain fully sanctioned Hezbollah, the additional Gulf Cooperation Countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman – are analyzing measures to blacklist Hezbollah.
The rift between the full terror designation favored by the US, Canada, and Israel, and the opposition from the EU, will continue to be a source of friction for counterterrorism experts.
The game changer might very well be Hezbollah’s invasion of Syria to wipe out rebel forces seeking to overthrow the regime of President Bashar Assad. Hezbollah has stoked volatility in the region. Stability in the Middle East remains the chief priority for the EU.