"Ten years after the war in 2008 in Georgia, we havent stopped working for peace and for a true solution to the conflict. I thank this Parliament for having this debate today.
At the height of the war, the mediation of the European Union prevented further escalation and ultimately resulted in a cessation of hostilities. Since then, the European Union has been a central actor in the process to manage the consequences of the conflict, to improve the lives of all people in the region, and to find a lasting solution.
We have, as the European Union, a very special role to play, particularly because of the EU Monitoring Mission to Georgia. To date, we are the only international monitoring presence in the field. The Mission has fulfilled an indispensable function of stabilisation, to the benefit of all the communities afflicted by the conflict.
The Mission can currently count on over 200 civilian experts in areas adjacent to Georgias breakaway regions. Its mandate is not only to monitor the stabilisation and normalisation processes, but also to actively build confidence, reduce tensions and prevent new escalations.
As we work on the ground with the Mission, we continue to condemn Russias recognition of Georgias breakaway regions. Very recently, the Syrian Arab Republic also announced that it would establish diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We immediately condemned this move, together with the entire international community. It is a violation of international law, and it will only make the resolution of the conflict more difficult to achieve.
We are also denouncing the steps taken by Moscow to consolidate what it calls "new realities" on the ground. Among other things, we do not accept Russias military build-up in the breakaway entities and its construction of physical barriers on the dividing lines.
All our actions aim at improving the life of all people in the region. Together with the OSCE and the United Nations we continue to steer the Geneva international discussions to address the consequences of the conflict.
The EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia co-chairs these talks, with a focus on ensuring security and stability on the ground as well as tackling humanitarian issues that impact on the life of the local population.
Progress in these discussions is limited, in particular when they address improved modalities for security and stability, but also issues related to internally displaced persons and refugees.
In spite of this, the discussions have helped make the security situation on the ground relatively manageable.
Above all, the discussions are an opportunity for us to remind participants – starting with the Russian authorities – that the situation is unacceptable. It is not only unacceptable for the violation of international law, but first and foremost for the impact it has on all the people in the two entities, elsewhere in Georgia, and in the entire region.
Of course, our engagement with Georgia goes well beyond our Monitoring Mission and the Geneva discussions. It is a true partnership, a strong friendship based on political association and development cooperation, on economic exchanges as well as on a strong friendship between our people.
Our approach is to include the breakaway regions in our programmes in Georgia whenever this is possible. This is what we are doing for instance with our programmes on agriculture, rural development and vocational training.
We are also assisting civil society initiatives in the entities. We support all initiatives that can help re-establish confidence between the sides – such as people-to-people contacts, dialogue processes, and academic exchanges.
All our actions within the two regions are fully coordinated – and I would like to underline this because it is a very important point - and approved by the Government of Georgia, and fully in line with the Georgian engagement policy.
In light of the recent Peace Initiative of the Georgian State Ministry of Reconciliation, we are now looking at the possibility of providing further support. For instance, there is a clear interest from the breakaway regions to increase trade with the rest of Georgia, but also with the rest of the region. This would represent a major improvement for the life of local communities, and for all people in the wider region.
We are also considering a mobility scheme for academics from the breakaway regions, and this could also be facilitated by the Peace Initiative that I just mentioned.
Our policy is one of non-recognition but also of engagement with Abkhazia and South Ossetia; exactly in line with the approach of the Georgian government.
The conflict has impacted first and foremost on the people of these two regions: they are not free to explore the full economic potential of their lands; jobs and opportunities are lost; and beyond Abkhazia and South Ossetia, an entire region suffers from the consequences of the conflict.
Ten years after the war, we do not and will not stop working, first of all to achieve a true solution, and secondly for all local communities, for their development and for their dignity.
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