While Hizballah has for four decades successfully terrorized civilian populations on at least three continents, European states have proved painfully slow to designate it a terrorist group, let alone impose sanctions and other law-enforcement measures. Both the EU itself and France only applied the designation in 2013, but still hold fast to a fictitious distinction between the group’s terrorist “military wing” and its supposedly legitimate “political wing.” Nonetheless, the continent has begun to acknowledge the dangers of Iran’s Lebanon-based proxy, and last year six Central European states banned Hizballah completely. Much credit, writes Alex Benjamin, is due to Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the former deputy prime minister of Bulgaria:
[I]n 2012 a man boarded a bus full of Israeli tourists near Burgas, Bulgaria and detonated a bomb—killing the Bulgarian bus driver and five Israeli tourists. The blast injured 35 more. Serving as Bulgaria’s interior minister at the time, Tsvetanov was tasked with investigating the attack. Working through Europol, Tsvetanov’s probe quickly revealed that Hizballah, without any shadow of doubt, was behind the bombing. The culprit known, Tsvetanov then led a campaign urging all countries to recognize, without equivocation, that Hizballah murdered those six civilians on European soil.
Some EU member states, perhaps, feared retribution for acknowledging the truth. Others, maybe, feared retaliation from one of Hizballah’s allies, [especially that] perennial thorn in the EU’s side, Russia.
During his time in government, Tsvetanov learned the value of transatlantic partnership and the importance of Israel’s security in a world where so many nefarious forces instead focus on finding creative ways to threaten that country and its citizens.
With the golden opportunity presented by the Biden administration’s stated aim of reengaging with its European allies, now is exactly the right time for Tsvetanov’s seeds, planted back in 2012, to come into full bloom. Brussels, we are waiting.