The EU entrusted the operational response to the Kyrgyz crisis to the OSCE – which sent a very small police mission that was subsequently blocked from deploying as planned.
Instability in Kyrgyzstan took EU member states by surprise in 2010 – although it appeared to unsettle Russia and the US to an equal degree. While the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April created widespread concern, the situation escalated in June, when there were attacks on the Uzbek minority in and around the city of Osh. This spike of violence displaced 300,000 to 400,000 persons and left at least hundreds dead.
European diplomacy helped ease this crisis (see also component 24) and the European Commission released €5 million for humanitarian aid and €7 million for social-stability programmes. However, EU support for a police mission to Osh under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which was first floated in June and approved in July, had extremely disappointing results. All EU states backed the OSCE proposal to monitor the behaviour of the Kyrgyz police through joint patrols, although it had particular support from eastern European member states. However, the proposed mission was very small – just 52 uniformed personnel – and it became clear in August that the Kyrgyz government could not persuade the local authorities in Osh to accept its deployment in their region. The fact that Kyrgyz security forces had apparently been involved in anti-Uzbek violence raised tensions over the mission.
In spite of warnings from human rights groups of ongoing abuses in or near Osh, it proved impossible to deploy the OSCE mission there. In November, the OSCE recalibrated its operation to focus on the Community Security Initiative in Kyrgyzstan, involving support to the Kyrgyz interior ministry and confidence-building projects to connect police and minority communities. Although EU members cannot be held directly responsible for this outcome, the low-profile OSCE police efforts have proved to be a poor response to one of 2010’s highest-profile acts of ethnic violence.