Canada urges EU to keep Hamas as terror group

Ottawa ‘deeply concerned’ by court’s removal of Gaza rulers from blacklist; EU envoy: Ruling ‘doesn’t have any practical effect’

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Canada on Wednesday urged the European Union to keep Hamas listed as a banned terrorist group, after an EU court ordered it removed from a blacklist.

“We are deeply concerned by the decision of the EU General Court to annul, on procedural grounds, the measures against Hamas,” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement.

“We call on the EU to take the immediate remedial steps necessary to keep Hamas listed as a terrorist entity.”

Canada lists Hamas as a banned terrorist group.

The EU’s top envoy to Israel declared Wednesday that the bloc still considers Hamas a terrorist organization and the EU court’s decision to remove the group from its blacklist will have absolutely no practical implications on the ground.

Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said he understood why Israeli officials were worried about the court ruling, since Hamas is “deliberately mischaracterizing” it, but added that he believes that he was able to alleviate their worries.

“It’s a technical, procedural decision that the court has reached. It doesn’t change the political position of the EU vis-à-vis Hamas, which is still that it’s a terror organization,” Faaborg-Andersen told The Times of Israel. “It’s important to point out that this has no immediate effect in terms of unfreezing the sanctions that we have against Hamas. We have an asset freeze against Hamas and Hamas members and that will stay in place.”

EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)

The EU will continue to adhere to the so-called Quartet principles, Faaborg-Andersen said, implying the union would refrain from interacting with Hamas as long as the group doesn’t renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Earlier on Wednesday, the General Court of the EU in Luxembourg annulled, “on procedural grounds,” the union’s 2001 listing of Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations, a move that greatly angered Israeli officials.

“We are not satisfied with the European Union’s explanation that the removal of Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations is a ‘technical matter,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The burden of proof is on the European Union and we expect it to put Hamas back on the list forthwith, given that it is understood by all that Hamas — a murderous terrorist organization, the covenant of which specifies the destruction of Israel as its goal — is an inseparable part of this list.”

Commenting on the court decision as well as on the current wave of European parliaments calling for the recognition of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu said it seems “that too many in Europe, on whose soil six million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and several right-wing Israeli politicians similarly slammed the court’s decision. Likud MK Danny Danon, for instance, said the Europeans appeared to believe that “their blood is holier and that the blood of Israelis is worthless.”

The court said it was removing Hamas from the terror list do to a procedural mistake.

After Hamas was first placed on that list in 2001, the group contested the move, claiming that “Hamas is a legitimately elected government and, in accordance with the principle of non-interference in the internal matters of a state, cannot be placed on lists of terrorists.” The initial blacklisting “was not preceded by a notification of the evidence held against” Hamas, the group’s lawyers argued in a 2010 case, adding that the group was “not given the opportunity to present duly its submissions on that evidence.”

The court has now agreed that the decision to outlaw Hamas was not based on evidence from “competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.”

“What the court is saying is that it would like to see some more tangible evidence,” Faaborg-Andersen explained. “We will surely find that evidence and resubmit it to the court.”

Also on Wednesday, the European Parliament passed a resolution that “in principle” recognizes Palestinian statehood as an outcome of peace negotiations, and lawmakers in Luxembourg backed the recognition of a Palestinian state.

“If you look at the wording,” Faaborg-Andersen said about that resolution, “you will find that it’s totally consistent with what has been the EU’s position on this issue all along: that we are ready to recognize a Palestinian state in due course, as a result of a negotiation process.”

The present wave of European parliaments urging the recognition of Palestine are to be understood as signaling “growing impatience among the European public and their representatives — be it in national parliaments or in the European parliament — about the lack of progress toward achieving a two-state solution.”

The EU wants to see a negotiation process resume “as quickly as possible,”Faaborg-Andersen said. “That is the key message that everybody’s sending right now — to both parties. Not only to Israel, but also to the Palestinians.”

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