POLITICS
10 Years Anniversary of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia – “Mission supports stability and security on the ground”
07 August, 2018
10 years have now passed since the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia and still we face a huge daily threat. Certain parts of Georgia continue to be occupied even today. Georgia sees this as a problem that needs to be tackled. However it is not one that Georgia can hope to resolve without some involvement of the international community. In order for the latter to assist they need information about what is happening at ground level. Thus the EU
Monitoring Mission’s (EUMM) role in providing impartial information on this issue is highly appreciated.

The EUMM is an unarmed civilian monitoring mission in Georgia, set up by the European Union. It was deployed in October 2008, following the EU-mediated Six Point Agreement which ended the August war.

The Mission’s priorities are:
- 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 conflicting parties; and
- to inform EU policy in Georgia and the wider region.

The EUMM has a valid mandate throughout all of Georgia. However, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have so far denied it access to the territories under their control.

The EUMM’s Headquarters are in Tbilisi with Field Offices in Gori, Mtskheta and Zugdidi.

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Map of Offices of EUMM, Photo courtesy: www.eumm.eu

The EUMM Monitors are selected from all of the European Union member states. Currently they have a total of 204Monitors from 23 different EU member states. We had a chance to interview one of the monitors, who is from Lithuania.

Jurgita Vilpisauskaite has worked as a monitor in Georgia for a year. She had previously worked in the political communication filed in her country, and has participated in numerous election observation missions all over the world as an international election expert. Jurgita worked in Georgia 12 years ago and, as she always had a feeling of coming back, she decided to apply for a monitoring post with the EUMM in Georgia. After a month’s selection process, Ms. Vilpisauskaite was deployed as a monitor to Mtskheta, where she joined the human security team. This team’s main task is to find out the everyday challenges and predicament of people living along the administrative boundary line. Ms. Vilpisauskaite is also responsible for reporting on the situation of internally displaced people, ethnic minorities, as well as contributing to open source monitoring, and plays a role of the Press and Public Information Section Focal Point at the Field Office level.

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Barisakho Patrolling, Photo courtesy: Valeria Elefterie

The EU Monitoring Mission operates 24 hours a day, especially along the ABL and every member of the mission has a different work schedule, depending on their profile, experience, and interests.

Jurgita’s typical working day starts in the morning with a briefing, detailing the previous day’s findings and the mission’s informational needs. Daily, she will be given various tasks, for example, meeting people from the IDP settlements, or going to Samtskhe-Javakheti to meet representatives from ethnic minorities (this task is also part of the mission).

“In the team, we have two international staff members, one national language assistant and medical support, and every day is a different story.”

After fulfilling her daily tasks, Jurgita returns to the office to write up a report. This is then sent to the reporting unit at Mission’s Tbilisi Headquarters, with weekly, monthly and other reports being sent to EU policy-makers and member states in Brussels.

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EUMM Patrolling, Photo courtesy: Valeria Elefterie

On a daily basis, Ms. Vilpisauskaite meets local residents along the ABL. She notes that residents face different concerns and problems every day, and including those related to irrigation and farming. Each case is unique and is given individual attention. These issues are reflected in the reports that are sent to Brussels and later on to member states. Because the EU monitoring Mission is an impartial mission and does not represent any parties within the conflict, it is responsible only to Brussels. Therefore, the information collected through the Mission’s monitoring is shared within a tightly controlled group within the international community.

“There is sometimes a misunderstanding about our monitoring role here. Because we are not allowed to work on the other side of the administrative boundary line, people think we represent the Georgian side. However, the reality is different, we only observe and monitor the processes, collect information and reports to Brussels with relevant information that is sent to member states. Even during the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meetings, we do not share the information with the conflicting parties; we only talk about the issues and attempt to find ways of addressing them.”

According to Vilpisauskaite, the Mission contributes to stability and security on the ground and provides neutral and unbiased information to the international community.

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Jurgita with a girl, Photo courtesy: Adam Moller

Our interlocutor also shared her personal views about Georgia, its nature and culture. As Jurgita noted, she finds it very interesting to meet its people and explore the country.

“I travel a lot during my working days and day offs. I choose to visit untouched and less populated places, where I can still find solitude and wilderness. I find it fascinating to learn more about the daily lives of shepherds and monks. The general public’s attitude toward the Mission around the country (not only along the ABL areas) is generally positive. Most of them already recognize our distinctive blue vests and cars. Sometimes, people even invite us to their homes and open their hearts.”

Jurgita said that she is impressed by Georgians’ respect and adherence to their traditions.

“What I love about Georgia is that my imagination is constantly stimulated by the combination of its rural charm with the people and the country’s sheer spontaneity.”

First photo courtesy:  Valeria Elefterie

Author: Gvantsa Kakauridze

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