18th Feb 2019

Swiss diplomat outlines Georgia war probe

The choice of experts for a new enquiry into the Georgia war will be a "Solomonic decision" amid efforts to guarantee objectivity, the Swiss diplomat in charge of the mission, Heidi Tagliavini, has told EUobserver.

Ms Tagliavini's remarks come as the EU on Tuesday (2 December) formally launched the probe, creating a "fact-finding mission" to investigate "the origins and the course of the conflict ...with regard to international law, humanitarian law and human rights, and the accusations made in that context."

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  • The judgement of Solomon depicted in an 18th century Italian painting (Photo: wikipedia)

The European Commission is to provide €1.6 million to fund the project, which is to produce a final report by 31 July 2009.

The Swiss diplomat is currently selecting a panel of 10 to 12 lawyers, historians, military staff and human rights experts to help run the enquiry, as well as seeking new offices in Brussels and Geneva to house her team.

EU diplomats expect Ms Tagliavini to present detailed plans for her investigation in Brussels on 19 December and to begin travelling to Russia and Georgia before the end of the year.

"I should have some clear ideas about the whole mission by then [19 December]," she said. "An investigation is a process. I might have a team by the end of this year and then hire extra people if the need arises."

Asked whether the selection of the panel is proving difficult, as Russia-friendly or Georgia-friendly countries lobby to get people on board, Ms Tagliavini referred to the biblical King Solomon, known for cunning solutions to dilemmas.

"It's a Solomonic decision. These are sensitive issues. We know the sensitivities and we will try to address them."

The diplomat - chosen in part for her non-EU nationality to underline the project's neutrality - has officially left her post as deputy head of political affairs at the Swiss foreign ministry and quit its headquarters in the Swiss capital, Bern.

"I am independent. It would be unprofessional to be in a building unsuited to this."

Ms Tagliavini did not rule out the possibility of visiting conflict zones in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia in the course of her work, atop interviews in Moscow or Tbilisi.

"All travel that is necessary will be undertaken," she said. "Look at the title for the mission: it talks about 'origins.' We will use all the resources available."

"The [€1.6 million] budget is a good budget. But if this becomes an obstacle to fulfilling the mission, we can come back to this."

The EU's mandate for the investigation says the final report will be "presented to the parties to the conflict, and to the Council [the EU member states' secretariat], the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations."

But the mission head indicated that the primary function of the study will be to inform future EU policy on the still-simmering conflict.

"It's a report to the EU," Ms Tagliavini said. "I believe it's the EU that will choose the function of this."

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