The EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia observes the boundaries with Abkhazia and South Ossetia - but has neither the mandate nor leverage to resolve Georgia’s divisions.
Launched after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) is mainly concerned with observing boundary lines between Georgian-controlled territory and the secessionist provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, contrary to its mandate, the mission is barred from operating in Abkhaz and Ossete-controlled territory. Nevertheless, EUMM facilitates meetings between all sides – including Russian forces – to address border incidents. While the mission previously collaborated with the UN and OSCE missions to Georgia, these closed in 2009 at Russia’s insistence. EUMM also monitors Georgia’s adherence to commitments to limit its deployments of weapons near the boundary lines.
EUMM’s limitations were underlined in June and July, when violence in the Abkhaz buffer zone increased and the mission was unable to patrol the affected area. In October and November, however, it was able to report two pieces of good news from the buffer zone around South Ossetia. First, Russian troops withdrew from their last checkpoint on undisputed Georgian territory. Second, the Ossete authorities agreed to recommence regular incident-reduction meetings with the Georgians, which had been suspended for a year.
Some critics complain that EUMM’s activities are detached from other EU initiatives to strengthen the Georgian state, and even senior mission staff members fear that the operation may outlive its usefulness. In July, however, the European Council extended EUMM’s mandate to mid-2012. The exact budget was €52 million according to the European Council and €26 million according to EUMM itself. All member states except Cyprus provide some personnel to the mission, with Finland, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden making the largest contributions. This spread of contributors points to a broad consensus among EU members that, while EUMM cannot resolve the tensions in Georgia, it still plays a useful stabilising role as the last peace operation left in the country.