TCS Daily


The Evidence of Absence

By Olivier Guitta - February 2, 2006 12:00 AM

Since September 11, the European-U.S. partnership in the war on terror has generally been strong. Even countries vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq, such as France and Germany, have been cooperating with the US. In fact, John McLaughlin, the former CIA director, described the relationship between the CIA and its French counterparts as "one of the best in the world. What they are willing to contribute is extraordinarily valuable." But if Europe is really America's ally, how come it does not include Al Qaeda on its list of terrorist organizations?

More importantly, why doesn't anyone seem to care? Indeed, it is common knowledge that the Lebanese Shia terrorist group Hezbollah is not part of the EU's list. This is a matter of controversy -- Israel wants Hezbollah included but France has resisted, saying the group fulfills a "social function." But nowhere is Al Qaeda mentioned.

Following the September 11 attacks, the European Union formulated an official list of terrorist organizations. Groups such as the Basque separatist organization ETA, "the external security arms of Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad", the real IRA, and the Orange Volunteers were placed on this list, which obliges member states to seize their assets. But there was no mention of Al Qaeda and this was three months after the attacks in New York and Washington DC. The most recent EU list of December 2005 includes now 48 groups (they removed Hezbollah altogether) but still no Al Qaeda.

As a comparison, Al Qaeda is of course included in the US State Department list as well as the UK and Australia ones, which seems only natural and common sense. So, how come the European Union does not consider Al Qaeda a terrorist entity?

Even though the EU has a different definition of terrorism than the US, there's no way Al Qaeda could not fit it. Europeans have been historically lenient towards what they assume to be "freedom fighting" groups or "mostly social" entities such as Hezbollah. But Al Qaeda cannot be considered either a freedom fighting group, except if one assumes that they are liberating the ex Caliphate, or a social group. But still the EU would not have it; Al Qaeda does not seem to fit its definition of a terrorist group.

The reason behind this is that Osama Bin Laden's organization is much more a franchise than an organized entity. Al Qaeda is a loose collection of different terror networks and therefore cannot be construed as one group per se. This argument does not hold water because Al Qaeda always had a centralized command, a clear hierarchy.

Interestingly enough, this issue has not really been on the table: for instance the latest available State Department report on Patterns of Global Terrorism does not mention the EU's omission. While Hamas and Hezbollah's potential inclusion to the EU list got a lot of coverage and rightly so, Al Qaeda got none whatsoever.

Regarding Hamas, the US lobbied with the help of some European allies to include the Palestinian terrorist group in that list, overcoming France's refusal. It would be wise for American diplomacy and Congress to tackle this issue and pressure the European Union to add Al Qaeda to its terrorist list. Over four years after the bloodiest terrorist attacks in history, it's well past time.

Olivier Guitta is a Washington DC based foreign affairs consultant.

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4 Comments

Who's your terrorist friend?
Since both the US & Europe bombed Yugoslavia to help the KLA engage in genocide & ethnic cleansing in Kosovo after the US government had put them on their terrorist list this whole question stinks of the rankest hypocrisy on all sides.

OBL and Osama ARE listed as terrorists by the EU
The statements in this article are incorrect.

Al Qaeda is listed as a terrorist group by the EU. See: http://europa.eu.int/abc/doc/off/bull/en/200205/p106105.htm

And if you note the last section on the EU listings - http://europa.eu.int/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l33208.htm
they state *explicitly*


List of individuals and entities concerned


The list in the annex to the common position is drawn up on the basis of investigations carried out by the competent judicial and police authorities in the Member States; it may be added to and revised every six months, so as to keep it up to date. The list includes ETA (Basque Fatherland and Liberty), the IRA (Irish Republican Army), GRAPO (the First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Group), the terrorist wing of HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other revolutionary activist groups, as well as the names of individuals belonging to such groups.

Osama bin Laden and individuals and groups associated with him do not feature on the list, as they are already listed in Council Common Position of 26 February 2001 concerning additional restrictive measures against the Taliban and amending Common Position 96/746/CFSP.


So - OBL and the Taliban are listed separately and do not have to be renewed every six months - they are permanently listed as terrorist organizations unless Common Position 96/746/CFSP is amended.

Did you read the document you write about?
Had you read it you would have seen in the header that it is an update to 2001/931/CFSP which states.

"(4)On 26 Feruary 2001, pursuant to UNSC Resolution 133(2000), the Council adopted Common Position 2001/154/CFSP which provides inter alia for the freezing of funds of Usama bin laden and individuals and entities associated with him. Consequently, those persons, groups and entities are not covered by this Common Position."

2001/154/CFSP was repealed by 2002/402/CFSP which is headed, "Concerning restrictive measures against Usama bin Laden, members of the Al-Qaida organisation and the Taliban and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with them..."

Yes, Al Queda is not on your list. It is dealt with more specificly in other common positions. You would know this if you had bothered reading the common position you wrote about.

this article is fundamentally wrong and demands a rectification
since it is either based on sheer ignorance, or bad faith. What some other comments mean to say is that the EU does not have to include Al Qaeda in its own anti-terrorist list since it is included in the UN list, which is implemented within the EU through a separate instrument, the so-called Common Position. So the whole article is wrong. The only right thing about it is to show how fast some Americans rush to criticise Europe for whatever reason, even if the Bush Administration and Republican Congress have decided not to on the same basis, which should have led the author to think twice before writing this piece.

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