The European Union Monitoring Mission, or EUMM, has been operating in Georgia since the close of the August war with Russian invasion forces in 2008. With the mission of ensuring hostilities do not return and documenting cases of violations by both sides, they aim to serve to goals of mutual coordination and as a liaison to the European Union on related concerns. However, their purpose has done little to reduce tensions and ensure the safety of those who live in the contested regions. This begs the question; is it time to “break-up” with the EUMM?
Emblazoned on T-shirts, stickers, posters, and even Facebook profile picture frames in Georgia is the phrase “20% of my country is occupied by Russia.” The popular slogan in Georgia rings true, as Russian and Russian-backed separatists maintain de facto control of two large regions of the small South Caucasus nation. Since the end of the 2008 August War, the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been host to Russian forces and “peacekeeping” contingents.
Additionally, these regions are also secured by shadowy elements of the Russian Federal Security Service, often shortened to the Russian “FSB,” and their infamous Razvedka intelligence units. These units routinely conduct missions across the so-called “administrative Border line” or ABL to harass or abduct Georgian citizens and move the ABL demarcation fence deeper into sovereign lands. A litany of human rights violations and complete isolation from any humanitarian aid efforts has allowed these regions to become black holes in the area.
South Ossetian Border Guards near the occupied Georgian village of Uista. (Alyona Tedeyeva/TASS)
The attacks on civilians and abuses of the people trapped within the Kremlin’s grasp has led many to question what both the Georgian and European governments are doing is really helping. A long-standing position of appeasement and sugar-coated diplomacy has allowed Russia to continue this pattern. The EUMM, while only one of several authorities responsible for this matter, is one that should be key in the resumption of normal life along this area so true diplomacy can prevail.
According to the EUMM’s own website, their mission is outlined as;
• To ensure that there is no return to hostilities;
• To facilitate the resumption of a safe and normal life for the local communities living on both sides of the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABL) with Abkhazia and South Ossetia;
• To build confidence among the conflict parties;
• To inform EU policy in Georgia and the wider region
Despite this, thousands of Georgian citizens have been illegally detained by Russian forces near these occupied areas. Denial of rights, unlawful detentions, and abhorrent reports of torture are only some of the violations of which Russia and their puppy governments in these regions are accused. The EUMM has done little to ensure the cessation of these horrible actions.
The mission of the EUMM is a noble and important one. Ensuring that there is an environment of stability to allow for meaningful diplomacy and discussion to flourish is the first step towards real peace. However, it is unlikely the passive nature of the EUMM will be recognized by the Russian leadership. Both the de facto governments and the Kremlin only respond to power and strength. The EUMM is not a powerful or traditional strong organization.
A warning sign is behind a wire barricade erected by Russian and Ossetian troops along (Reuters Photo)
The resources being poured into this frivolous venture are immense. According to the EUMM, the budget for their operations in Georgia between 2020 and 2022 has been €44,823,402.79. With over 200 monitoring staff, this expenditure is likely spent on little more than a cadre of note-taking and recording teams. This incredibly large number can easily be reallocated to far more effective means of combating the violent and tyrannical regimes that occupy these regions.
The European Union endorses many programs that do good. From humanitarian aid to military stabilization and assistance forces, the Union has proven they are capable of meaningful action. Sending a team of well-meaning volunteers to conduct unarmed patrols near a hostile occupation force is not a way to carry this out.