Saturday

17th Apr 2021

EU official: Hezbollah unlikely to get on terrorism blacklist

  • Hezbollah supporter at anti-Israel protest in France (Photo: looking4poetry)

The EU's top counter-terrorism official has said that Hezbollah might not get onto the Union's blacklist even if it did bomb Jewish tourists in Bulgaria last year.

Gilles de Kerchove told EUobserver that Bulgaria's investigation into the incident is likely to be concluded next month.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

US and Israeli officials have said the EU should list the Lebanese militant group if the Bulgarians find it guilty, in a move which would make it illegal for Hezbollah sympathisers in Europe to send it money.

But for De Kerchove, the situation is not so simple.

"First, we need to reach conclusions with strong evidence that it was the military wing of Hezbollah [which bombed Burgas]. That's the prerequisite, even in legal terms, but then, as always in the listing process, you need to ask yourself: 'Is this the right thing to do?'," he said.

"For Hezbollah, you might ask, given the situation in Lebanon, which is a highly fragile, highly fragmented country, is listing it going to help you achieve what you want? ... There is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist attack. It's not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it's also a political assessment of the context and the timing," he added.

He noted there is "no consensus" among EU states on whether listing Hezbollah would be helpful or not.

He said the US has not listed Nigerian extremists Boko Haram to avoid giving them international recognition.

He recalled that one EU country in past years objected to listing a Latin American militant group, which was "obviously a terrorist organisation," because it was in secret negotiations with it at the time to "bring it back into mainstream politics."

The Bulgarian interior minister briefed his EU peers on the Burgas probe at an informal meeting in Dublin last week.

A London-based Arabic newspaper - Al Hayat - later cited a "European source" as saying he predicted the investigation will point to Hezbollah.

The Bulgarian interior ministry denies the story, however.

"Until the case is concluded, we cannot say exactly who was involved," Bulgarian interior ministry spokeswoman Vania Valkova told this website.

An EU diplomat said: "It's difficult to say what will happen until Bulgaria files its report. The way these things are phrased could be very important. There could be lots of ifs and maybes or it could contain very concrete elements."

He added: "Hezbollah plays a very important political role in Lebanon."

For his part, Vladimir Chukov, a teacher of Arabic studies at Sofia university, noted that Hezbollah politicians would probably pull out of the ruling coalition in Lebanon if the group is listed by the Union.

"That would mean the end of the Lebanese government. It would mean the destabilisation of Lebanon and the further destabilisation of the whole region ... This is unfamiliar territory for the Bulgarian police. It's not a normal criminal investigation. It concerns EU foreign policy and the wider situation in the Middle East," he said.

He noted that police in Azerbaijan, India and Thailand recently blamed Hezbollah for attacks on Jewish targets.

One theory is that they came in retaliation against Israel's alleged assassinations of scientists linked to the nuclear programme in Hezbollah's paymaster, Iran.

But Hezbollah itself and the people detained in the probes deny that it was involved.

Alastair Crooke, a former EU advisor on Middle East policy who runs an NGO in Beirut, also cast doubt on Hezbollah's involvement in Burgas.

"Why would they want to do that? What for?" he asked.

"Hezbollah uses its military power against the Israeli army. It has an effective force. It's well trained and it has invested a lot in preparing for conflicts in this area and in this terrain. You can't take fighters out of south Lebanon and drop them into Bulgaria and replicate what they do here," he said.

EU rebuffs US call to put Hezbollah on terror list

The EU will not for the time being put the Islamist Hezbollah movement on its blacklist of terrorist organisations but the discussion could re-emerge in the future, the Finnish EU presidency has said.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us