Now that Bulgaria has officially confirmed Hezbollah was responsible for last July’s Burgas terror attack, that claimed the lives of five Israeli tourists and a local Bulgarian man, the onus is squarely on the European Union to list the group as a terrorist organization – without further delay.
Hezbollah is already designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, Netherlands and Israel, while even the United Kingdom and Australia have designated Hezbollah’s artificially separate ‘military wing’ as well.
In 2005, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that “clear evidence exists of terrorist activities on the part of Hezbollah”, calling on the EU to take all necessary steps to curtail them.
Regrettably though, the EU has continued to drag its feet, refusing to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization. This is not due to a lack of evidence, of which there is an overabundance, but rather a lack of political will and consensus among EU member states.
The Bulgarian report was released earlier yesterday, after a meticulous investigation lasting seven months. Yet in a disturbing indication of what the future may hold, last week, Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s top counter-terrorism official said that even if Hezbollah did carry out the bombing and was legally culpable, that did not necessarily mean it would be blacklisted. According to Kerchove, ultimately, the decision would be based on “a political assessment of the context and the timing.”
Kerchove’s remarks were swiftly condemned by Phillip Missfelder, a deputy in the Bundestag and the foreign policy spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Missfelder said that “terrorism is an integral part of Hezbollah’s overall strategy that undermines the political stability of Lebanon and threatens the existence of the Jewish state of Israel.” He added “by no means can the EU tolerate that this group operates from European soil. Therefore it is absolutely urgent to put this group on the EU terror list.”
Perhaps the EU requires a brief refresher on Hezbollah’s dossier of work, including its trail of terror on European soil.
Hezbollah is funded, armed, and receives its orders straight from Tehran. For all intents and purposes, it is the strategic arm of the Iranian regime’s proxy war against Israel and Western interests in Europe.
The group has been directly responsible for some of the most heinous terror attacks in the world (not just against Israeli interests) including the 1983 barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 US marines and 58 French paratroopers; a wave of bombings in France between 1985 and 1986 which killed 13 and left hundreds injured; the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847 in Greece; and a 1984 bombing in Spain that killed 18 and left 83 injured. While in July last year, a Hezbollah operative was arrested in Cyprus on charges of planning an attack on Israeli tourists.
Since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, it is estimated that Hezbollah’s stockpile of rockets has tripled to at least 60,000. These rockets, made in the factories of Iran, are longer in range and more devastating in impact.
With an extensive web of fundraising and infrastructural support throughout the continent, Hezbollah has also taken to radicalizing and recruiting young Muslims for jihad in Europe. It is estimated that Hezbollah has almost 1,000 agents roaming in Germany alone, with even more spread through Europe.
Some EU states, such as France, are concerned that by blacklisting Hezbollah, they will lose their political leverage in Lebanon. But one must ask what exactly has their ‘leverage’ brought so far?
Today, for example, we see Hezbollah directly intervening in Syria on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime, while a 2011 United Nations investigation found Hezbollah agents responsible for the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Importantly, the United States has, for some time, been strongly urging the EU to label Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. Last year, over 250 members of Congress wrote to the President and each of the 27 Ministers of the EU, saying “the time is long past for the European Union to recognize that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization” and asking for their partnership in “the vital effort to fight terrorism.”
In a recent Times (UK) op-ed, titled ‘Don’t Mince words. Hezabollah are terrorists”, former Spanish PM José María Aznar and Northern Ireland’s Nobel Peace Prize Winner David Trimble warn that “Hezbollah is already present and active on European soil [and] it has shown that it is willing to strike in Europe. That is why European governments must move now to stigmatize Hezbollah and its activities, vision and goals.”
Placing Hezbollah on its terror blacklist will help the EU make significant headway in combating radical Islam and terror on European soil, as well as striking a dagger at the heart of Iran’s empire of terror.
Such a move will also allow authorities to freeze Hezbollah assets as well as its ability to recruit new members, thereby cutting the very lifeblood of its terror activities, while providing law enforcement agencies greater investigative powers and improving cross-border cooperation between states.
The question the EU must ask itself now is: does it really want Iran to continue operating in the heart of Europe? If the answer is no, then they must list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization without delay.
This article was originally published by The Commentator. Arsen Ostrovsky is an international human rights lawyer and freelance journalist.