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EUMM Georgia private ambulances sow confusion

(B2) The observation mission on the line of contact between South Ossetia and Abkhazia (EUMM Georgia) opposed a vigorous denial to " false statements circulating in South Ossetia on the presence of private vehicles accompanying its observers.

The private medical support vehicle (private.ge) accompanying observers on the Ossetian demarcation line on April 24 (credit: Sputnik)

Misinformation from the Ossetian media

It all started with Russian media (Sputnik Ossetia particular) and Ossetians (the government channel PEC) which relay a declaration of the security committee of the government of South Ossetia, published on Wednesday (May 20). “ A few days ago [April 24-26], on a section of the South Georgian-Georgian border near the village of Uista (Znaursky district of South Ossetia) ", the border guards of the KGB RSO have " recorded the unauthorized appearance of the car of the Georgian medical clinic 'Private'. The vehicle was accompanied by two patrol cars from the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM). What allowed Georgian doctors to secretly move to the state border ". One way « to collect biological elements on site, intended for use in the 'Richard Lugar' health research laboratory “say the Ossetian secret services. NB: A research center set up and financed initially by the United States, but now under the control of the Georgian National Disease Control and Public Health Administration (NCDC).

Well-present ambulances

In fact, it was not the EUMM observers who accompanied the medical vehicle, but the opposite. Since (almost) the start of the mission, the European observers have been accompanied by a medical vehicle. Service provided by a Georgian private operator. One of these paramedics died in 2009 during an explosion (read: Georgia: A mine explodes as an EU observer vehicle passes. Toll: 1 dead).

Without sample collection

The ambulance was well visible » and signed, it is specified at the mission HQ in Tbilisi. There is no no secret movement. The patrol went as planned. There was no contact with people. No samples were taken and there was no intention to do so ».

A service provided in full view of all

« All parties, especially those in South Ossetia, are well aware of these facts, as was explained via the hotline on April 26-27 “, says one at the headquarters of the mission in Tbilisi. And this has regularly been the case. " For many years already, for example during meetings of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) from 2014 », this presence was explained.

Necessary medical support

This medical support allows “ to quickly provide necessary assistance in times of need, such as a car accident. It is especially important in remote areas where it is difficult to obtain rapid medical help ,” we remind EUMM Georgia. " EUMM is an observation mission, with daily patrols, including during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our approach is completely impartial. »

Commentary: the use of the private sector is problematic in the event of a crisis

In the absence of a proposal from a Member State, European officials resort to private services, in civilian missions (often), as in military operations and missions (sometimes), to ensure certain essential operational functions (1). Practical and flexible, it is not without its difficulties, however, particularly in the event of a crisis.

The Georgian affair proves it: the adversaries of the mission found there an easy breach to exploit. The employment of a Georgian contractor who may have worked for other employers is a source of significant confusion, especially in a mission as sensitive as that of EUMM Georgia, on a front line frozen in military terms, but still active at the national level. political level.

More recently, the assistance contract signed for certain civilian missions in Africa has raised questions. The management of the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS) realized that the service was inoperative. With the ban on travel and the airports blocked (except for military transport), the 'privates' proved incapable of acting to evacuate affected patients (2).

In 2009, during the military operation in Chad, the Irish also tested the rental of private helicopters. A service which quickly turned out to be ineffective (3). They had bitten their fingers. “ Luckily the Russians were there to take over » confided an officer of the operation at the time.

To be fair, let us point out that the use of 'private individuals' in the operation is also sometimes a success, such as the pilots and surveillance planes chartered by Luxembourg firstly for the anti-piracy operation (EUNAVFOR Atalanta). , then for the maritime operation in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med Sophia and Irini) (4).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. I am not talking here about the rear logistics functions (food, cleaning, etc.) carried out almost systematically by private operators.
  2. Lire: Civilian CSDP missions struggling to function
  3. Lire: Helicopters Irl. not homologated, “lack of control” says a report et Two Irish helicopters banned from missions?
  4. Lire: Luxembourg planes in the Seychelles: “very useful” private planes! »

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).