In a press conference Thursday with visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) said the EU will consider imposing sanctions on Hezbollah but does not yet have sufficient evidence of its activities in Europe to make a decision. Barroso said Bulgaria was still finalizing its investigation into the Burgas bus bombing and had asked the Lebanese government for help.
WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (EJP)---B’nai B’rith International said it is "disappointed" to learn the European Union will not yet designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the wake of the Bulgarian government’s findings that the group was behind the attack that killed six people, five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian in Burgas in July 2012.
In a press conference Thursday with visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barros said the EU will consider imposing sanctions on Hezbollah but does not yet have sufficient evidence of its activities in Europe to make a decision.
Barroso said Bulgaria was still finalizing its investigation into the Burgas bus bombing and had asked the Lebanese government for help.
"The judicial process will show whether we should take political decisions. We cannot decide this in advance," Barroso said.
He added: "The immediate goal is to bring the perpetrators of those terrorist attacks to justice. There can be no impunity. Once we know who is guilty we can update the list of terrorist organizations and apply specific measures to combat terrorism."
Last month, Bulgaria in February implicated Hezbollah the Burgas bombing, putting pressure on the EU to sanction the group.
B’nai B’rith, a human rights advocacy group, said in a statement: "The EU is sending the wrong message when the evidence is quite clear, and when in fact this attack occurred on European soil. Bulgaria spent six months investigating the suicide bombing, finding the names of the perpetrators, fake documents and a money trail leading back to Lebanon. Not designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization will only empower and embolden the group. We urge the EU to act quickly to cut off Hezbollah’s resources and to take the information provided in the Burgas report seriously."
Israeli President Peres warned that if the EU delayed a decision on imposing sanctions on Hezbollah, it would only empower the group, which he said is involved in the conflict in Syria, where it is supporting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
"I hope that Hezbollah will be called to order," Peres said.
"If you don't take measures against Hezbollah, they may think they are permitted to do so."
Peres is expected to renew his call for the EU to blacklist Hezbollah in his address to the European Parliament next Tuesday in Strasbourg.
According to Reuters news agency, which quotes a "European diplomat close to the issue", one EU member state was expected to file an official request to blacklist Hezbollah's military wing in the next month.
"A request should be made within a month and be considered in two to three months," the diplomat told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It has become an overwhelming case."
EU Foreign Ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday but the issue is unlikely to come up in the discussiosn.
Several EU countries, including France, are arguing that imposing sanctions on Hezbollah could destabilize the Lebanese government and contribute to tensions in the Middle East.
Hezbollah is part of in the coalition government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati.