PARIS — The European Union has put Hezbollah's military wing on its list of terrorist organizations, underscoring concern about the group's role in Syria and a bombing attack last year in Bulgaria.
Monday's decision by European Union foreign ministers targets only the military wing of Hezbollah, which is also Lebanon's most powerful political party. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU would review the terrorist designation every six months.
"That does not prevent continuation of dialogue with all political parties in Lebanon. We also agreed that the delivery of legitimate financial transfers to Lebanon and delivery of assistance from the European Union and its member states will not be affected," she said.
Blacklisting Hezbollah allows EU members to freeze the group's assets in Europe, and it might also include travel bans for individuals. Ms. Ashton said it sends both a political signal and a "real" signal that the 28-member block does not tolerate terrorism. The move marks a victory for Britain and the Netherlands, which have been pushing for the listing, following a terrorist attack in Bulgaria last year in which Hezbollah has been implicated. That bus bombing killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, "It's a year since the terrible bombing attack in Bulgaria and we believe its very important when there's a terrorist attack on European soil that Europe gives a firm and clear response to that. A designation would also make it easier for us to work together in the face of further terrorist threats and send a very clear message to Hezbollah and others about that."
Also of concern is Hezbollah's strong support for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and its military crackdown on a two-year-old uprising there.
Israel welcomed the EU's decision, but expressed disappointment that it did not also include Hezbollah's political wing.
The EU foreign ministers also called for the release of political prisoners in Egypt, including the country's ousted president Mohammed Morsi. They called for an inclusive democratic process in the North African country, along with elections as soon as possible.