By Coline Schep

After long and painstaking debate, and following years of US pressure, EU foreign ministers on 22 July agreed to designate Hizbullah’s ‘military wing’ as a terrorist organisation. The decision allows for the freezing of EU-based assets aimed at assisting the Lebanese Shia movement’s military activities. It also makes it illegal for EU residents to transfer funds to Hizbullah’s military wing, and bans EU diplomats from liaising with the group’s military officials. In taking this decision the EU is following in the footsteps of the US (which has blacklisted Hizbullah since 1995), Canada and Australia, as well as two individual EU member states (the UK and the Netherlands).

The most noteworthy aspect of the blacklisting is the EU’s somewhat artificial distinction between Hizbullah’s ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings. In reality, these are not clearly distinguishable, and the movement itself does not formally apply any such dichotomy. Rather, the terms are likely to be geared towards enabling the EU to continue to engage with the Lebanese government, as well as with Hizbullah elements specifically, on political and commercial matters.