On an official visit to Israel, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis pledged on Thursday to support Jerusalem’s efforts for blacklisting of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The move could take time, but it offers Israel a path to bring such legislation to the European Union (EU), now that it is supported by a member state.
A statement issued by the office of Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the Lithuanian government will support adding the IRGC to the country’s list of terror groups and will also support adding it to the EU list of terror groups. Furthermore, the Israeli statement said that the two ministers discussed ways to thwart the Iranian nuclear program, including reimposing diplomatic and economic sanctions against Tehran.
The parallel statements published by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry concerning Landsbergis’ visit focused on sanctions against Iran, without mentioning the IRGC. Still, in an interview with Israel’s Walla news, Landsbergis noted that a serious discussion is currently taking place within the EU on declaring the IRGC a terrorist organization. The Lithuanian minister assessed that there is a growing consensus within EU member states on this matter. He noted that “there are practical and legal issues that we still need to resolve, but I believe we are getting close to such a decision.”
For Lithuania to blacklist the IRGC, authorities will have to engage in a legal procedure that might take some time. Still, the pledge made by the Lithuanian minister is significant in the European context. If Vilnius indeed goes through with this procedure, it could then submit to the EU a request to blacklist the IRGC across the continent. EU regulations for adding a group to its list of terror organizations demand that at least one member state designate the group as such. Then, once a request is submitted, the 27 member states must all agree.
Israeli diplomats who spoke with Al-Monitor estimated that the necessity of a consensus amid the 27 makes blacklisting the IRGC difficult, perhaps even impossible. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is very much against it, as blacklisting the IRGC would generate a severing of ties on Tehran’s side. France apparently holds the same position. That being said, Israel’s Foreign Ministry continues its campaign in European capitals for adding the IRGC to the EU blacklist.
Minister Cohen raised the issue of the IRGC during his visit to Berlin last Tuesday. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock did not address the topic publicly. Still, Baerbock was apparently attentive and receptive to several of the points brought up by the Israeli delegation, including the blacklisting of the IRGC. If indeed true, this could signal a shift in the German position expressed only a week ago, by which German experts found no legal grounds to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
With Benjamin Netanyahu back in the prime minister’s seat, Israel has doubled its anti-Iran diplomatic efforts vis-à-vis Eastern and Central Europe capitals. During his past terms in office, Netanyahu often criticized the EU, accusing it of bias against Israel. He fostered ties with Euro-sceptic leaders, including Hungary’s Victor Orban and the Polish leadership. He is now taking up where he left off two years ago when losing the 2021 elections.
This approach has paid some dividends for Netanyahu, but not on Iran. Hungary decided last week to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a special gesture of friendship between Orban and Netanyahu. This would make Hungary the first European member state to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital. Despite the reports, Hungarian President Katalin Novak said on Friday that no decision had yet been made on whether Budapest would indeed move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem next month.
The Iran file, however, seems more complicated as far as Hungary and Poland are concerned. On Feb. 14, unlike other European envoys, the ambassadors of Hungary and Poland participated in the ceremonies celebrating the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. In addition, among all EU member states, Hungary was the most reluctant on imposing a 10th package of sanctions against Russia — a package that included also sanctions against Iranian individuals who sold or fabricated drones used by the Russian army against Ukrainian populations. As such, Budapest is unlikely to deliver what Jerusalem is hoping for — namely, more pressure on Brussels to boycott the IRGC.
Source » al-monitor