The European Union’s 28-member bloc agreed on Monday to blacklist Hezbollah’s military organization as a terrorist group following years of relentless US and Israeli pressure.
The EU cited accusations that the powerful Lebanese Shia movement was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria last year which killed five Israelis and their driver to justify the move, which is a reversal past policy.
But pressure to blacklist the group had intensified since May when Hezbollah publicly acknowledged that its fighters were taking part in the Syrian civil war against the western-backed rebels.
Until now, the EU had resisted pressure from Washington and Israel to blacklist Hezbollah, arguing such a move could fuel instability in Lebanon where the group is a major part of the government.
But Israeli and Bulgarian accusations that Hezbollah was behind the bus attack, and European anger over Hezbollah’s involvement in the war in Syria, persuaded opponents to back the move, which triggers the freezing of any assets the group’s armed wing may hold in the EU.
Last month a new socialist-led Bulgarian government backed away from the claims of the previous administration, saying that the EU could not justify blacklisting Hezbollah solely based on the little evidence produced to implicate it in the crime.
“It is important that the (EU) decision be based not only on the bombing … because I think the evidence we have is not explicit,” Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin had told national state radio BNR.
Hezbollah has denied any involvement in last year’s bombing. In February the groups accused Israel of waging an “international campaign” against it.
Hezbollah had previously dismissed the EU’s push to blacklist the group as part of a larger psychological and political war being waged against it.
“We have confronted great pressure, but they have never been successful in harming our will,” Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on May 25.