21st Oct 2016

EU countries block blacklisting of Hezbollah

  • Hezbollah flag at anti-Israel protest in Paris (Photo: looking4poetry)

A small group of EU countries has again blocked Britain's bid to blacklist Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Diplomatic sources said Austria and the Czech republic led opposition at a meeting of EU countries' counter-terrorism specialists in Brussels on Wednesday (19 June).

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Ireland, Italy and Poland also voiced concerns.

Objections centre around shaky evidence that Hezbollah bombed a bus containing Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last year.

The Bulgarian foreign ministry told EUobserver on Wednesday its investigation is incomplete.

Its spokesman, Dimitar Yaprakov, said Sofia is still waiting for "replies to the current judicial requests in connection with the Bulgarian investigation from our foreign partners."

Some of the naysayers are worried the move might destabilise Lebanon, where Hezbollah is a popular political party.

The details of the British proposal - to blacklist Hezbollah's military wing, but not its political branch - are also posing problems.

"The Czech position is that it's impossible to separate the military arm [of Hezbollah] from the civilian one," an EU source said.

The talks are set to continue.

But Britain plans to kick them up a level, leaving aside the security specialists and turning to senior EU diplomats or foreign ministers instead.

EU foreign policy heavyweights France, Germany and the Netherlands back London.

Another EU diplomat said Wednesday's talks saw more countries fall into the pro-sanctions camp.

"More member states came round to the view that Hezbollah needs to be listed … This was only the second meeting on the subject and there is a clear momentum toward listing the group. But now it will have to be discussed at a more senior level," the contact said.

If the UK gets its way, pro-Hezbollah sympathisers in Europe will find it more difficult to donate money.

It will also stigmatise Israel's fiercest enemy in the Middle East.

"We have been saying for a long time that the EU needs to take this, maybe bold, but necessary step," Yoel Mester, the spokesman for the Israeli mission to the EU, said.

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