JLC’s Head of Policy and Research Claudia Mendoza looks at the implications that a European classification of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization would have on its operational abilities abroad.
The Netherlands, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Israel classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, while the UK only classifies its 'military' wing, not its 'political' wing as such. In reality, the two wings are inseparable. The EU does not proscribe either wing, despite repeated calls from the US and Israel to do so. The UK has started to ramp up the pressure, calling on the EU to proscribe Hezbollah's military wing.
The obstacles reside both in European bureaucratic processes and in the resistance of particular countries that have actively opposed such a move, such as France, Spain, and Belgium. In order to add Hezbollah to the list of terrorist organisations, consensus must be found among all 27 EU members. The European Council, comprised of representatives of all member states, must unanimously agree on a "common position". Achieving this consensus is difficult, especially with the expanding EU.
The Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis (whose President currently holds the rotating EU Presidency) says "There is no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organisations." Largely due to the argument that Hezbollah's political wing is a legitimate political force and cannot be banned.
Hezbollah and Iran have been strongly linked to the terror attack in the Bulgarian resort of Burgas in July, which killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian. Although public information is still appearing, this attack has highlighted the on going terrorist operations and capabilities of Hezbollah and Iran beyond their borders. Hezbollah has been accused of violently suppressing Syrian opposition.
According to numerous sources there are at least 950 Hezbollah operatives inside Germany alone, a number that would be seriously reduced were the classification emplaced and enforced. Hassan Nasrallah has accepted that terrorist classification would seriously damage the organisation and it would certainly allow for greater cross border cooperation against Hezbollah operations inside the EU.
In our recent meeting with Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East, we asked for the UK government to pressure other EU governments to place Hezbollah on the list of recognised terrorist organisations and for the UK Government proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety.