By Benjamin Weinthal
BERLIN – A discussion is under way within the EU about possibly listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group, Austria’s Foreign Ministry informed The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
Austria appears to be the first EU country to acknowledge that that the 27- member body has begun a process to designate the Lebanese Shi’ite group as a terrorist organization.
He noted that Hezbollah is not only represented in Lebanon’s parliament but is part of its government, with two ministers in the cabinet.
“A listing of the Hezbollah could, therefore, have immediate effects on the security of the country and the stability of the government,” Schallenberg continued.
He noted that Lebanon President Michel Suleiman seeks to create a “national dialogue” in his country, with the goal of, for example, integrating Hezbollah’s fighters and weapons into the state’s security forces. Schallenberg said that the EU has up until now clearly supported Suleiman’s efforts.
He stressed that it is important that the EU find a “joint position, especially in light of the situation in Syria.”
News organizations reported that Hezbollah’s militias joined forces with Syria’s regime to suppress the Syrian rebellion.
The division among EU countries revolves around whether to designate the entire Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, or just parts of it.
Michel Malherbe, a spokesman for the Belgium Foreign Ministry, told the Post on Thursday: “We believe that it could make sense, instead of qualifying Hezbollah as a whole, to isolate armed subgroups, or individuals. This method has proven its merits, and deserves a try.”
Critics of this approach (treating armed wings separately from political branches) point to a statement from Hezbollah’s No. 2 leader, Naim Qassem, who said in 2009: “Hezbollah has a single leadership,” and “All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership.”
Qassem added, “The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel.”
The United Kingdom classifies Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization, but recognizes its political wing as a legitimate political party. The Netherlands designated Hezbollah as whole to be a terrorist group. Both Dutch and British foreign ministers have urged their EU counterparts to place Hezbollah on the EU terror list.
Read more at Jerusalem Post
- U.S. congressmen urge EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group (haaretz.com)
- Will Europe outlaw Hezbollah? (longwarjournal.org)
- Where Would Hezbollah Be Without the EU? (jewishpress.com)