Bulgarian authorities confirmed last week that Iranian-backed, Lebanese Shi’ite terror-organisation Hezbollah was the architect behind the deadly bus bombing that killed five Israeli civilians and the local bus driver in Burgas last summer.
The country’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov declared that two of the three suicide bombers “were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah” and that data was “showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects.”
Despite the evidence, both Hezbollah and Iran categorically deny involvement in the attack.
Deputy Hezbollah leader Naim Qassem said Israel was directing “allegations and incitements and accusations against Hezbollah” and added that the organisation “will not submit to these pressures (…) and that the compass will remain directed towards Israel.”
A similar message was conveyed by the regime in Theran: “This has nothing to do with Iran,” Gholamreza Bageri told reporters. “We are against any form of terrorism and strongly condemn such actions.”
What makes the Burgas attack particularly explosive is the fact that it happened on European soil sparking new debate over the EU’s policy towards Hezbollah, which varies widely across the Union. The pressure from the US and Canada to ban Hezbollah once and for all is steadily growing.
Right now, the Netherlands is the only country that has Hezbollah on its official terrorist list. It allows the government to outlaw the organisation’s activities, freeze bank accounts and assets, and put suspected members under surveillance.
The UK has a more ambiguous and problematic policy, making a distinction between the organisation’s ‘political’ and ‘military’ wings, although Foreign Secretary William Hague has indicated that the government would likely back a full ban of the organisation.
Throughout the rest of Europe, Hezbollah can engage freely in political activities and fundraising.
In Germany, up to 950 are believed to operate in the country, which is regarded as a stronghold for the organisation in Europe and key to its fundraising capabilities.
Several EU countries remain in strong opposition to a potential EU ban, most notably France and the Scandinavian countries. The latter have a history of remaining neutral and opposing legislation that takes a stance against one group or another. According to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, the EU needs to “reflect seriously on consequences of [the] Bulgarian probe naming Hezbollah as behind [the] terrorist attack.”
France, Lebanon’s former colonial power, believes that outlawing the organisation would put French lives at risk and have a negative impact on the relationship between Paris and Beirut.
So it seems highly unlikely that the Bulgarian attack will eventually lead to a significant change in the EU’s approach towards Hezbollah. To alter the current policy, a unanimous vote would be required by the 27 member states. A full and comprehensive ban is thus almost impossible to achieve. The best compromise seems to be following the British example, whereby the EU would make a distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wing.
The self-defeating structure and decision-making processes of the EU bring out the worst of the organisation. It makes it incapable of taking decisive action and always reduces it to finding agreement on the lowest common denominator, with the result that the problem remains unsolved.
No one is satisfied with the outcome, but at least no one officially rebels against the decision. That is the EU’s modus operandi.
Such sentiments were reflected by the spokesman of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, who issued a statement in which Hezbollah was not even mentioned by name: “the terrorists who planned and carried out the Burgas attack must be brought to justice.”
But if the EU cannot even resolve a dispute over such a clear cut case, how is it supposed to deal with far more complex and controversial foreign and security policy issues in a competent way?
Hezbollah’s record leaves little doubt over the organisation’s nature and ideology, which is in clear breach of the EU’s fundamental principles.
Hezbollah is Iran’s terror proxy, a country regarded by several EU member states as the greatest current threat to peace and stability in the world, and responsible for the death of thousands of innocent civilians. The EU itself declared in 2012 that there was “clear evidence of terrorist activity” by Hezbollah.
The dichotomy of a political and military wing is misguided and dangerous. Just as much as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness had influence over the IRA’s military council, so has Hassan Nasrallah the ultimate power over all Hezbollah activities. Hezbollah is not a charitable, social movement. It is a terrorist organisation with global outreach, funded by pariah state Iran, which hides behind hospitals and schools to cover up its true agenda and ideology.
The trail of blood speaks for itself.
Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 Beirut bombing that killed 58 French peacekeepers and 241 American Marines, regularly engages in deadly attacks against Israeli civilians, and supports the mass-murdering regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria.
But the EU’s incompetence to speak with one voice in the wake of a crisis has once more been exposed. All the evidence is not enough to compete with the different national policy agendas of EU member states, and to lead to an unequivocal ban of Hezbollah.
The winners are our enemies. They take advantage of such weakness, and exploit our differences. And Europe is letting them.