The EU lacks both presence and influence in the North Caucasus and increasingly struggles even to get information about what is happening in the region.
The EU’s stated objectives in the North Caucasus are stability, development, and improved human rights. However, in 2012, the North Caucasus continued its decline into a failed region inside the Russian Federation. Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Ingushetia stood out as the most violent republics, but everywhere in the region there was an erosion of secular and state power. The population is becoming increasingly radical – especially young people. The human-rights situation in the North Caucasus also remained dire. Extra-judicial killings, torture, and abductions continued to be common. Murdered civilians were often presented as insurgents. There were also cases of intimidation in Moscow: NGO Human Rights Watch said its lead researcher on the North Caucasus received death threats; the newspaper Novaya Gazeta said its chief correspondent in the region was attacked.
The EU had neither a presence in the region nor influence over this deteriorating situation in 2012. The EU concluded its cooperation programme with North Caucasus in 2011 and EU representatives did not pay a single visit to the region in 2012. Russia also rejected an EU proposal to open a new programme on socio-economic development. Europeans continued to work in the region via the UN representation or local NGOs. However, the latter’s ability to receive money from and to give information to any foreign powers was dealt a blow by the adoption of restrictive legislation in the summer of 2012 – effectively causing the EU’s influence to wane even further. The North Caucasus does not figure prominently in exchanges between European leaders and Moscow. The issue is routinely raised at human-rights consultations, but European diplomats admit that their influence is close to zero.