Time to put Hezbollah on EU terror list

The EU is strongest when it acts as one in the world. The weakness or reluctance of one member state impacts us all, and especially the people living in the shadow of Hezbollah's destabilizing activities.

Marietje Schaake is a Dutch member of the European Parliament (D66/ALDE Group)

What is the most effective way to persuade people to end violence? This difficult question manifests itself in different ways on the European political agenda.

This week the Ministers of Foreign Affairs met in Brussels, with the EU’s position on Hezbollah up for discussion. This organization is active in Iran, Lebanon and Syria and is widely considered to be causing unrest in those countries.

As it turned out, ministers made no decision on whether Hezbollah’s violent arm should be added to the EU terror list.

This is a missed opportunity illustrative of the lack of consensus on EU’s foreign policy. While this fragmentation threatens to become vulnerability for the EU itself, it first and foremost impacts the people suffering from terrorism and violence.

They should be the reason we seek effective solutions.

At a time when unrest in the Middle East has created a historically fragile moment, the EU must take a more ambitious leadership-role in the world and improve and protect the rights of people globally, especially in its close neighbourhood.

At the very least it must make sure it is not in one way or another complacent about terrorist or criminal activities taking place on its own soil. We should also prevent terrorist groups from organizing themselves within the EU.

Signs of Hezbollah’s activities in Europe are plenty. German magazine Der Spiegel recently reported that drug trading is used to finance the terror groups’ activities.

The Netherlands and the United Kingdom have reacted by putting Hezbollah on their terror list. This means the European assets of the group as well as its affiliates and members can be frozen, and their access to the EU limited. For the British, blacklisting only applies to the military wing of the group, for the Dutch also the political branch is on the terror list.

In practice, distinctions between violent and political activity are not easy to make. It is therefore essential that Hezbollah stops its violent and criminal activities so that its political wing is above suspicion. If individual members are unable to use EU banks for financial transactions, they may jump the fence to the political side.

If it is beyond doubt that the violent activities are not legitimized by the EU indirectly, we give a strong signal that terror activities are not condoned.

Another concern that should prompt the EU to action is related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. A Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper recently published a list of people who were alleged to be witnesses.

The chilling effect that this message sends (no matter whether the names are actual witnesses or not) will likely hamper progress in the case.

While a formal listing would send a strong political message, it is no magical solution in and of itself.

Governments of European member states should investigate terrorist financing and activities on its soil. This can be done with or without EU sanctions.

However, the EU is strongest when it acts as one in the world. The weakness or reluctance of one member state impacts us all, and especially the people suffering from Hezbollah’s destabilizing activities.

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