Folke Bernadotte Academy – Swedish agency for peace, security and development

Gabriel von Horn

Head of operations in Georgia

Gabriel von Horn is on secondment by the FBA to the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia. He is stationed at the mission headquarters in Tbilisi and serves as head of operations for the EUMM.

In 2008 war broke out between Georgia and the two Russian-backed breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia. After a ceasefire agreement was brokered by the EU, EUMM was established in order to monitor the security situation and compliance with the ceasefire deal, and to oversee the withdrawal of Russian armed forces from Georgia. Besides its headquarters in the capital city of Tbilisi, EUMM has regional field offices in the cities of Gori, Mtskheta and Zugdidi.

Gabriel, can you tell us about a regular week at work?

– I am responsible for operational activities within the EUMM. I give orders and directions to the operational department at the headquarters in Tbilisi and to the three field offices. I am number three in the hierarchy, following the head of mission and deputy head of mission, whom I work closely with. During the workweek I have a lot of internal meetings, and meetings with various external actors such as the parties to the conflict and representatives from the OSCE, UN and other parts of the EU, aside from EUMM. I also regularly visit the field offices and go on patrols.

What challenges do you face as a leader in an international mission?

– EUMM is a civilian mission, but all employees do not have a civilian background. We have former police officers and military staff mixed with civilians. It is challenging to be the leader for people with such various backgrounds, from retired generals to recently graduated students. A common nominator for all international missions is that difficulties arise because the personnel come from different countries. The EUMM staff are from various EU member states that differ a lot culturally. Also, working in a conflict area is hard when there are more than two parties to the conflict.

What did you do prior to your current position?

– For almost four years I was chief at the field office in Zugdidi. I was responsible for the EUMM’s work in the western part of Georgia, including Abkhazia. Prior to that I spent five years working with border control for the EU Special Representative to Georgia, and two years for the OSCE in Georgia. I have also been a military observer for the UN in Sierra Leone, Kashmir and Cyprus.

How would you describe the situation in Georgia and EUMM’s possible impact on the situation?

– The situation is stable but sensitive. EUMM has very limited access to the breakaway regions, which makes it difficult to help normalize the situation and build trust between the parties. The fact that Russia has border police and military personnel in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia does not make things easier. But I am convinced that the situation in Georgia had been far worse without the presence of the EUMM. All parties to the conflict have great respect for the mission and its work.

Photo: International Crisis Group, Jelger Groeneveld

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