While the U.S. government designated Hizbullah as a terrorist organization a decade ago, the European Union has not. Doing so would require the consensus of all 27 member states, and several countries have been opposed, including Spain, Belgium, and, in particular, France.
Now, the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as France's new president may represent the best chance yet for Europe to reconsider its position. In a September 2006 closed-door session with Jewish leaders in the U.S., Sarkozy reportedly referred to Hizbullah as a "terrorist organization." During last summer's war between Hizbullah and Israel, Sarkozy defended Israel's right to defend itself against an organization he described as the "one aggressor" in the conflict.
Hizbullah uses Europe primarily as a fund-raising and recruiting ground. An annual German intelligence assessment estimates that 900 Lebanese Hizbullah members live in that country alone. A ban would significantly constrain Hizbullah's European activities, especially its ability to raise funds there.
According to Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, EU designation of Hizbullah as a terrorist organization would "destroy" the organization as "[t]he sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed."
The U.S. should engage the new French president on this issue as soon as possible. Sarkozy is uniquely positioned to make Nasrallah's fear a reality.