By Shu Uchida (University of Coimbra)
(This article was previously published in the Caucasus Analytical Digest N. 99 in October 2017, and can be accessed here)
This contribution discusses the role of the European Union in Georgia, with specific focus on improving the
effectiveness of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM). Now that the situation on the ground is
relatively “stable”, what kind of role should the EU play in Georgia for achieving sustainable peace? It stands
to reason that the EUMM should focus not only on early warning, since it is necessary but insufficient, but
also on other activities, e.g., post-conflict stabilisation. Moreover, this article emphasizes the importance of
conflict transformation for addressing protracted conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia via the Incident
Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM), which was established in tandem with the Geneva International
On August 7, 2008, Georgia tried to forcefully incorporate South Ossetia into the Tbilisi Administrative
Territory (TAT), which did not include the two breakaway regions, i.e., Abkhazia and South Ossetia, during
the time when Russia was holding its Kavkaz 2008 military drill. Russia intervened in the armed conflict and
invaded the TAT. For the first time since 1979, Russia’s military crossed state borders to attack a sovereign state.
Based on the six-point agreement brokered by the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, the armed conflict
ceased and the EU deployed the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) as an early warning apparatus,
although Russia refused to accept the mission inside of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
According to the information extracted from the interview with an anonymous EUMM high-ranking
officer in May, 2016, “Local Georgian people have acknowledged the fact that people cannot cross the Administrative
Boundary Lines (ABLs) of breakaway regions and this is no longer a temporary situation. Georgian people do not have access to the ABLs now, but the Russian and South Ossetian side have already stopped putting the new fences for demarcation of the ABLs. This is the new reality. In this respect, the situation on the ground is much more stable than before.”
Therefore, this article discusses the EU’s role on the ground in Georgia, with specific focus on improving the
effectiveness of the EUMM. Now that the situation on the ground is relatively “stable”, what kind of role should
the EU play in Georgia for achieving sustainable peace? The EUMM is a mission without the direct influence
of Russia unlike the United Nations (UN) and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
missions regarding decision making. The function of the EUMM is limited, mainly focusing on monitoring the
area excluding Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The mission does not have a mandate for conflict resolution or
transformation, although it co-chaired the IPRM meetings for negotiations on security and humanitarian issues
among the parties of conflicts for confidence building. Additionally, it has had difficulty in providing material
support to the local people on the ground due to the nature of this mandate.
The resumption of the OSCE mission might become a solution for conflict resolution by providing a comprehensive
remedy because it usually has a broader mandate. If the OSCE mission would come back, it must heed the amicable relationship with direct parties of the conflicts. However, Russia insists that if the OSCE mission would come back to Georgia, it should open independent offices in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which is totally unacceptable for the government of Georgia. According to an anonymous officer of the EU Special Representative Office, “The OSCE mission would not come back to Georgia in th,e near future, although we do not exclude the possibility that it might come back as a project-based one, not the whole mission.” Now that there are few possibilities of resuming the OSCE mission, the importance of the EUMM is unquestionable for achieving sustainable peace in Georgia.
EUMM is an unarmed civilian monitoring mission of the EU. Since deployment, it has patrolled day and night,
specifically in the areas adjacent to the ABLs of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The EUMM is headquartered in Tbilisi
with field offices in Gori, Mtskheta, and Zugdidi. Its mandate is valid throughout Georgia; however, the de facto
authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have denied it access to the territories under their control (EUMM 2014).
The mission’s extensive presence through hotlines ensures it has the capacity to gather accurate and timely
information on the situation. When appropriate, this information is disseminated to relevant assistance and
response bodies. As such, the EUMM has sufficient capacity to monitor ABLs as an early warning initiative.
Furthermore, the mission has the capacity to gather detailed information on security issues.
Even if the EUMM plays an important role for early warning, it would be insufficient if the mission cannot
access the possible conflict areas. As discussed earlier, the EUMM can access neither Abkhazia nor South
Ossetia. However, they attempt to overcome these constraints through a satellite system. Thus, it is not a major
issue anymore. However, there is another constraint of the mission: the mission’s mandate does not allow it to
fund economic cooperation projects aimed at post-conflict stabilisation.
Improving the Effectiveness of the Mission
Concerning the EU’s foreign and defence policies, the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) replaces
the former European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP.) Before the Treaty of Lisbon was enacted, tasks
that could be conducted under the CSDP framework included the following:
• humanitarian and rescue tasks
• conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks
• tasks of combat forces in crisis management.
The Treaty of Lisbon adds three new tasks to this list:
• joint disarmament operations
• military advice and assistance tasks
• tasks in post-conflict stabilisation (European Union 2010).
Specifically, this research underscores the importance of the last task added by the Treaty of Lisbon, namely,
“tasks in post-conflict stabilisation.” It is essential to enhance the EUMM’s capabilities and effectiveness for
achieving sustainable peace in Georgia.
To give one example: The “Grassroots Human Security Grant Projects (GGP),” an still ongoing long-term
grant scheme initiated by the Embassy of Japan in Georgia, funds local and international NGOs, enabling them
to implement projects to stabilize society, e.g., renovating kindergartens for IDPs and clearing landmines. This
should be regarded as a form of peacebuilding, because it addresses grassroots issues. The grant amount for each
project is approximately 100,000 USD, and the embassy adopts approximately 10 projects each year, totalling
approximately 1 million USD per year (Embassy of Japan 2014a). While this amount is relatively small, it
could contribute towards strengthening and empowering the local population’s capacity to return to normal
life and building resilience against post-conflict challenges. However, the Embassy is not always adequately
informed on grassroots issues and sometimes has difficulties in finding reliable organizations to implement
projects. Thus, the EUMM provides the Embassy with information and recommendations for project implementation.
One EUMM recommendation was a project to construct a social education centre in Nikozi village in
the Gori district, which was implemented by the NGO “American Friends of Georgia” and funded by the Government
of Japan (Embassy of Japan 2014b). Another project implemented in close collaboration with the mission
was aimed at renovating a kindergarten in Khurcha village in the Zugdidi district. These projects were highly
appreciated by the local people, as the author’s own interviews have shown. Also, these projects enabled the
Embassy of Japan to deepen the ties with the EUMM.
In reality, the mission monitors areas along ABLs, and local people provide it with information on the
challenges they experience. However, while the mission accurately acknowledges these challenges, its mandate
makes it difficult to provide tangible support for the local people. Consequently, despite a good relationship
between the mission and local people, both locals and monitors become frustrated over numerous daily questions.
Thus, this research argues that the mission should strengthen relations with other donor embassies, e.g.,
the Embassy of Japan in the above example, by providing information pertaining to grassroots issues to stabilize
society via economic cooperation projects. This should enable a win–win situation for EU–Japanese
relations and a win–win–win situation for EU–Japan– Georgia relations.
As many donor countries face the challenge of securing an adequate budget for economic cooperation
projects, many will be keen to collaborate with other donors, although until recently, donor countries competed
to fly their national flags at project sites. Additionally, most donor countries need accurate information
on the issues pertinent to the locals. The mission should utilize this opportunity to strengthen relations
with other donors to implement projects and tangibly support the local population through information sharing
and collaboration. Furthermore, by providing other donors with the precise information required for project
implementation, the EUMM could improve its reputation in local society, which could enhance the environment
in which the mission seeks to gather more accurate information from local people. This could create
the synergy required to improve the mission’s effectiveness through collaboration with other donors through
co-conceptualizing projects and collecting more accurate information. Additionally, collaboration efforts do not require that the mission’s mandate be modified and that the activity is aligned to EU foreign policy such as CSDP, since it can stabilize local society as a peacebuilding activity.
Nevertheless, stabilizing activities and efforts only in the TAT contain certain risks to fix the status quo of Georgia
regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Because of the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, conflict transformation
is crucial via diplomacy, i.e., confidence building and coordination of interests of direct parties of the
conflicts. Thus, this research also discusses the importance of multilateral diplomacy by means of the IPRM
as an implication for further research and practice.
On the South Ossetian side, the IPRM meetings, cochaired by the OSCE and the EU in the no-man’s land of
Ergneti, have been held on a regular basis for confidence building among stakeholders. However, on the Abkhazian
side, the mechanism had not been functioning until May 2016 since the de facto government of Abkhazia
declared the EUMM representative persona non grata in 2012 (International Crisis Group 2013). The stakeholders
in the IPRM discuss the issues on the ground, e.g., airspace violations, gentlemen’s agreements regarding
IDPs and local individuals with respect to freedom of movement at the ABLs between breakaway regions and
the TAT, “borderisation” by de facto authorities in breakaway regions and Russia using barbed wire, and a surveillance
system to demarcate the breakaway regions. At this venue, stakeholders coordinate their interests and
express their concerns for confidence building, and the EUMM has accurate information on the ground and
adequate capabilities to facilitate the meetings of the IPRM. Therefore, the EU should further underline the
significance of confidence-building measures: the IPRM.
The EU and its EUMM can play a significant role in Georgia, because the EUMM is the only international
monitoring mission in Georgia since the expiration of mandates for the UN and OSCE missions to Georgia. Thus, the EUMM should improve its stabilisation capabilities by collaborating with other donor countries, and the EU should further emphasize the importance of confidence-building measures, i.e., Geneva International
Discussions and IPRM. Now that the security situation on the ground is relatively “stable”, both further stabilisation
and conflict transformation are needed to consolidate peace in Georgia. Furthermore, the EU’s role
should be supportive of the self-help undertaken by the Georgian government and Georgian people since sustainable
local ownership is also the key for long-term peace in Georgia.
The EU is preoccupied with its own issues. Nonetheless, the EU should carefully consider signals from Tbilisi
because the EU does not want the region to become volatile again. If the commitment from the EU does not
measure up to the demand from the Georgians, Georgia might start looking for another more trustworthy patron,
since dependence is vital for small powers such as Georgia. At this moment, there is no other option, except
the West, for Georgia to follow. Russia might become an option in the future if Georgia thinks the West cannot
be counted on as reliable. In addition, China might be another option for Georgia to depend on at least economically,
although there are hardly any historical ties between them.
Consequently, the visa-free regime for Georgians in the Schengen area could be a crucial signal from the EU
to Georgia not to alter its diplomatic trajectory. Furthermore, Georgia signed the Association Agreement including
the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU in Brussels on June 27, 2014 (civil.
ge 2014) . These moves are vital not only for Georgia but also for the EU, since the EU needs to soothe the
region because of energy security and for sustainability on the European periphery. Accordingly, both Georgia’s
aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration and the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiatives could reinforce mutual
relations. On the basis of this rapprochement, the EU could play a more crucial role for achieving sustainable
peace in Georgia and not altering Georgia’s diplomatic trajectory: the Euro-Atlantic integration.
Civil.ge. 2014. “Georgia, EU Sign Association Agreement.”
Embassy of Japan in Georgia. 2014a. “Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security and Cultural Projects.” Accessed July 29, 2015. https://www.ge.emb-japan.go.jp/english/grassroots/about.html.
Embassy of Japan in Georgia. 2014b. “Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) in Georgia 1998–2013.” Accessed July 29, 2015. https://www.ge.emb-japan.go.jp/files/grassroot%20programs/list_of_projects_2010_2013.pdf
European Union. 2010. “Common Security and Defence Policy.” Accessed July 29, 2014. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=LEGISSUM:ai0026 https://eumm.eu/en/about_eumm/mandate
European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM). n.d. “Our Mandate.” Accessed July 9, 2014.
International Crisis Group. 2013. “Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation.” Accessed October 23, 2016. https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/224%20Abkhazia%20-%20The%20Long%20Road%20to%20Reconciliation.pdf
The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) on this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of CASPIAN or the universities affiliated to the project.