The EU maintained relative unity and made some progress on Transnistria, but it was unable to achieve its objectives in the Caucasus.
The EU’s objective is to support the peaceful settlement of the conflicts in Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. With a new leader in Tiraspol, talks on Transnistria gained some momentum in 2012 and the two sides agreed several confidence-building measures such as restarting train links and reducing trade restrictions. Europeans, especially Germany, supported the process through diplomatic engagement and invited Tiraspol to the EU–Moldova trade talks. The EU also increased funding for conflict-settlement efforts. Progress was such that, in September, EU member states cancelled visa restrictions for several former Transnistrian leaders, which had been in force since 2003.
However, little progress was made in the conflicts in the Caucasus. The EU unanimously refused to recognise local elections in Abkhazia in March and South Ossetia in April, but it made no progress at the Geneva talks between Russia and Georgia. There is some hope that, after the longstanding Saakashvili no-contact policy with the breakaway regions, a new government in Georgia would develop a policy of constructive engagement with the two regions. However, the position of Russia, the provinces’ principal backer, remains unchanged when it comes to insisting that Tbilisi acknowledge their independence, a proposition the new government isn’t willing to entertain.
Neither the EEAS nor member states played an active role on Nagorno-Karabakh in 2012. The French, Russian, and US ambassadors, the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, met the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Paris and New York, in September, but the talks did not produce any concrete results. In September, the image of the EU as an impartial observer was tarnished by Hungary’s decision to release Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani officer serving a life sentence for killing an Armenian officer with an axe in Budapest in 2004. The decision not only caused predictable outrage in Armenia but also showed how shallow the EU’s consensus on Nagorno-Karabakh is: Budapest was widely suspected of angling for an Azerbaijani loan