EU Human Rights Promotion in Central Asia – Between the Dragon and the Bear

This policy brief argues that the EU risks negative consequences if it continues to let economic interests prevail over its stated aim of promoting human rights in its relations with Central Asia. The strengthening of authoritarian regimes in Central Asia has led to the growth of social tensions and an increase in the number of possible hotbeds of radicalisation in the region, both of which, in turn, pose direct threats to the EU in matters of security, the influx of migrants and the protection of investments. In order to address these challenges, and taking into account the influence of Russia and China in the region, the EU should increase the effectiveness of its projects in the fields of education, health care, civil and political freedoms, good governance, justice reform and support for local civil society. The EU must make it evident to Central Asian states that strengthening cooperation with the Union offers these countries significant socio-economic benefits which cannot be gained from cooperation with China or Russia.