Wednesday

29th Mar 2017

MEPs call on EU states to list Hezbollah as terrorist group

  • Hezbollah emerged as a militia in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon (Photo: EUobserver)

A group of MEPs from across the political spectrum have launched a campaign calling on EU governments to list Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shia militant group, as a terrorist organisation.

Hezbollah - or "Party of God" - emerged as a militia in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Its leaders were inspired by Iranian supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini, while its forces were trained and organised by a contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

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Currently, it plays a significant role in Lebanon's politics, controlling 11 out of 30 seats in the government and wielding veto power in the parliament.

According to Portuguese Socialist Paulo Casaca, it is Hezbollah's political influence that makes it a dangerous organisation. "If it was only a number of lunatics, it would not be as dangerous," the MEP told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday (16 September) unveiling an initiative to have the Lebanese group proscribed.

German Liberal Alexander Alvaro also argued in favour of Hezbollah being included on the EU's list of terrorist groups, which involves a freeze on any Europe-held financial assets as well as political stigma.

He said "900 Hezbollah sleepers are stationed within Germany" and that the "situation is probably not very different elsewhere," underlining that a terrorist group label would enable the "drying out of its activities in Europe."

Currently, only four countries consider Hezbollah a terrorist organisation - Israel, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. Australia and the UK list only its military wing as a terrorist group.

"We have to gather enough political critical mass" in order to put pressure on all EU governments that are reluctant to change their position towards the Lebanese Shia group, Czech conservative Jana Hybaskova said.

So far, 44 MEPs have signed a written declaration on the issue. "We hope to get as many [signatures] as possible and we would like this to be a policy of the European Parliament," Mr Casaca said.

He also expressed "dismay" over the fact that his own political group, the Socialists, do not support his tough line against Hezbollah.

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Analysis

More hype than substance in EU counter-terror plans

The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

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