Slovenia declares Hezbollah a terrorist organisation

European country becomes latest EU member to ban terrorist group in its entirety

Former Prime Minister and president of Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) Janez Jansa gives a statement after the first official results of the Parliamentary Elections in Ljubljana, Slovenia on June 3, 2018. The anti-immigration SDS party of veteran centre-right leader Janez Jansa was leading in Slovenia's parliamentary election, scoring just over 25 percent of the vote, with more than three-quarters of votes counted, according to preliminary official results. / AFP / Jure Makovec
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Slovenia is the latest European nation to label Hezbollah an international criminal and terrorist organisation.

The government ruled that the activities of the Iran-backed group are intertwined with organised crime and terrorism at a global level, Slovenian news agency STA reported.

The ruling follows similar moves by Germany in 2020 and the UK last year, amid a growing consensus that current policies to tackle illicit fund-raising and attack planning by the Lebanon-based group in Europe are not enough.

The European Union put the armed wing of Hezbollah on a blacklist in 2013 in response to a deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria the previous year and the group’s involvement in the Syrian war.

The decision still allowed the group’s political arm to function lawfully and European law enforcement said it created practical difficulties in tackling the group’s role in drugs and gem smuggling, as well as money laundering operations.

The move by Slovenia was welcomed by Israel, which wants the EU to blacklist Hezbollah in its entirety to make it easier to freeze any funds it holds in Europe.

Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel's foreign minister, said: “This decision joins similar decisions made in recent months by governments in Europe and Latin America.

“Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation that first and foremost harms the citizens of Lebanon itself and holds them hostage in the service of Iranian interests.”

A court in Austria, which neighbours Slovenia, in September jailed a Hezbollah commander for nine years. The man, 41, who was not named, was said to have been involved in military operations in Syria, with recruitment and raising funds for the group.

A trial also continued on Thursday in Belgium of a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat and three other suspected agents accused of planning a bomb attack on the annual gathering of a dissidents’ group in Paris in 2018.

The designation by Slovenia builds on a growing movement against Hezbollah after the Beirut port explosion in August, said Martina Valusiakova, a security expert at central European think tank Globsec.

A Lebanese prosecutor last week filed charges against officials over the huge blast, including a former customs chief who was reportedly a key Hezbollah figure at the facility.

Ms Valusiakova said there was no public intelligence to suggest an immediate threat to Slovenia from Hezbollah.

“I would look at this in terms that the momentum has picked up and that EU member states are gradually coming to recognise that partial designation isn’t sufficient,” she said.

“It hasn’t yielded any tangible results in terms of curbing Hezbollah's activities on European soil.”

The designation came as the US welcomed Latvia’s decision to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation in its entirety, back sanctions and express its readiness to place travel bans on individuals associated with the group.

“The simple fact is that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation, root and branch,” the US State Department said. “The United States continues to call on all countries to take whatever action they can to prevent its operatives, recruiters and financiers from operating on their territories.”