Enforcing EU Hizbollah ban ‘will be tough’

The European Union decision this week to designate the military wing of Hizbollah a terror organisation was the culmination of a lengthy campaigns by the UK, Israel and the US.

Even after the Burgas bombing last year — in which five Israeli tourists and their driver were killed — was linked by investigators to Hizbollah, a number of key EU members including France and Italy were reluctant to vote for a ban, partly out of concern for their peacekeeping troops stationed in south Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

A key development which helped sway the vote was the open involvement of Hizbollah members in helping Bashar al Assad fight rebel forces in Syria.

Israeli diplomats were fairly certain weeks ago that the EU vote would go against Hizbollah, although they failed to predict the decision last week on the new EU guidelines mandating that all EU-Israel agreements state that they do not apply beyond the Green Line. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that while Israel viewed the guidelines as “a mistake”, he praised the “good decisions” made by the EU.

Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the decision on Monday, saying that “the EU has sent a clear and robust message that it stands united against all terrorists and terrorist groups”.

Enforcing the decision could mean freezing all assets linked to Hizbollah in Europe and arresting prominent members. Israeli sources stressed, however, that this will be difficult because the political arm of the movement, one of the leading parties in the Lebanese government, is still considered a legitimate organisation and it will be difficult to differentiate between the two.

Hizbollah denies having any involvement with the Burgas bombing.

Last updated: 3:45pm, July 25 2013