Wednesday

3rd Jun 2020

EU steps up Georgia patrols ahead of war report

  • Refugee girl in Georgia: tensions have gone down, but the EUMM is stepping up activity ahead of the report (Photo: mid.ru)

The European monitoring mission in Georgia will step up patrols ahead of the publication of a probe into the origins of the 2008 war as a "prophylactic" measure against the risk of fresh conflict.

"We will reinforce our patrols ahead of the publication of the report and maintain maximum visibility," German diplomat Hansjorg Haber, the head of EU's monitoring mission in Georgia (EUMM), told journalists in Brussels on Monday (21 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The 220-strong mission was deployed a year ago in the aftermath of the Russian-Georgian war and is made up of unarmed security experts, who patrol the administrative boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The re-inforcements would be "purely prophylactic," Mr Haber said, linking the move to the risk of fresh tensions around the publication of an EU-sponsored report into last year's war.

The study, drawn up by an independent commission headed by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, is due to out sometime next week.

The report was originally due at the end of July, a few days before the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of the war on 7 August. But it was delayed after Ms Tagliavini said fresh material came to light at a late stage.

According to diplomatic sources quoted by Spiegel Online, the Swiss diplomat intends to brief UN chief Ban Ki Moon in New York this week and then release the study to Georgian, Russian and EU diplomats simultaneously.

The report could prove explosive.

If it points the finger solely at Moscow it could undermine the new thaw in US and EU relations with Russia.

If it primarily blames Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, it could worsen instability in the Caucasus republic, where months-long opposition rallies in spring had already called for the president to step down.

Preliminary documents leaked to Der Spiegel in June made Mr Saakashvili look bad, saying that there was no evidence that Russian tanks invaded Georgia before he opened fire. But in a statement released after the publication of the article, Ms Tagliavini said she would have the final word on the conclusions of the probe.

According to EU diplomats quoted by Spiegel Online on Monday, the final report is likely to blame both sides - Mr Saakashvili for mounting the attack and Moscow for escalating the conflict through its massive deployment of troops.

Toned down rhetoric

Asked about the prospects of a renewed conflict, Mr Haber said that both sides have toned down their rhetoric a great deal compared to last year.

"Now it's just a remote residual possibility of conflict, against which Georgia of course wants to be insured, and Russia to some extent too," he said, adding that Russia is even contemplating halving its 3,600-man strong military presence in Georgia as tensions subside.

Mr Haber said there were "no prospects" of Russia allowing EU monitors into South Ossetia or Abkhazia despite the improved climate, however.

The EUMM is also incapable of monitoring the maritime disputes between Georgia and Abkhazia, as it has no ships at its disposal. "But we are following the events and we asked the two sides to discuss the matter within the conflict resolution mechanism," the mission chief added.

Russia's coastguard authority said on Monday it had begun patrolling waters off Abkhazia, after Georgia seized cargo ships heading to and from the region, raising fears of a naval skirmish in the Black Sea.

EU to delay Georgia war report

The result of an EU-sponsored enquiry into the origins of the 2008 Georgia war is set to be delayed by two months, amid rising fears of fresh hostilities in the region.

News in Brief

  1. Trump threatens to use army to crush unrest in US
  2. Trump wants Russia back in G7-type group
  3. Iran: Fears of second wave as corona numbers rise again
  4. WHO: Overuse of antibiotics to strengthen bacterial resistance
  5. Orban calls EU Commission recovery plan 'absurd'
  6. ABBA's Björn new president of authors' rights federation
  7. Malta and Libya to create anti-migrant 'units'
  8. France reopening bars and parks next week

Opinion

Is Russia manipulating food supplies during pandemic?

Russia already dominates global oil – letting them dominate global food during a pandemic would spell disaster for the EU. It would effectively mean the EU, not just depending on Russian energy, but increasingly also on Russian food supply.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. Malta fiddles on migrants, as Libya burns
  2. Borrell: EU doesn't need to choose between US and China
  3. Post-Brexit and summer travel talks This WEEK
  4. State-level espionage on EU tagged as 'Very High Threat'
  5. Beethoven vs Virus: How his birthplace Bonn is coping
  6. EU's new migration pact must protect people on the move
  7. Spain takes 'giant step' on guaranteed minimum income
  8. Vestager hits back at Lufthansa bailout criticism

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us