Polish MEP Michal Tomasz Kaminski on Thursday called on EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to step up Europe’s efforts to designate Hizbullah a terrorist organization after last week’s Bulgarian’s report that the Lebanese group was behind the terror attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas in July 2012.
The European Jewish Press (EJP) reported that in a written question to Ashton, ahead of Monday’s meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers where the issue is likely to come under discussion, Kaminski asked why the EU remains “reluctant to call Hizbulllah by its proper name”, after Ashton’s official response to the Burgas findings expressed “the need for a reflection over the outcome of the investigation.”
Ashton’s spokesman further conceded that outlawing the group, which the EU has long remained resistant to doing despite Israel and the U.S. having long ago designated it a terrorist group, was merely one of “several options” the EU had to consider.
Calling for further clarification on the other available options at its disposal, Kaminski, who is a member of the Conservative group in the EU parliament, contended that “our failure to properly define Hizbullah allows the terrorist group to operate in Europe and use our member states as bases for money-laundering and fundraising”.
He further quoted the EU’s counterterrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, who said that committing a terrorist attack was “not the only legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it’s also a political assessment of the context and the timing.”
Bulgaria's announcement last week that Hizbullah was being the attack in Burgas last July, in which five Israelis were murdered, led to renewed calls from Washington and Israel on the 27-nation European Union to designate the group a "terrorist" organization.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the EU to follow Washington's lead by designating Hizbullah as terrorists in a move that will notably lead to a crackdown on its fund-raising activities.
However, diplomats have indicated that it is unlikely that Europe will name Hizbullah a terrorist organization because of its political strength in Lebanon.
Shortly after the Burgas bombing, the EU decided not to list Hizbullah as a terrorist group.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Gujarat Cossack-Marcolis said at the time that "there is no consensus on the issue, because Hizbullah also has an active political arm."
She added that the matter is open for reconsideration if "tangible evidence" that Hizbullah is involved in terrorist activity can be brought.
Kaminski has by no means been the sole European parliamentary critic of the EU’s reticence to definitely act on the Hizbullah threat, EJP reported.
German Christian Democrat and parliamentary foreign affairs committee chairman Elmar Brok was quoted in the German daily Hamburger Abdendblatt as saying that the group “belongs on the EU terror list,” the report said.
German federal politicians have also instigated calls for the position to come under review, with Free Democratic Party MP Rainer Stinner saying that if claims Hizbullah’s leadership had actively planned the terror attack could be substantiated, “then this organization must be included in the list of terrorist organizations.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, hit out at the EU on Tuesday for its failure to add Hizbullah to its list of terror organizations.
Speaking at a discussion of the UN Security Council, Prosor sarcastically referred to the fact that Hizbullah is defined by the EU as a charity organization and said, “Defining Hizbullah as a charitable organization is like defining Al-Qaeda as a committee for the preservation of structures, because of its efforts to flatten skyscrapers.”
“The Burgas terrorist attack demonstrated once again that the organization's activities are not limited to the Middle East and that its fingerprints can be found on five continents - from Kenya to Argentina, Thailand, India, Europe and the United States. The thesis that Hizbullah has a military arm and a political arm which operate independently of one another - has collapsed,” he said.