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Eastern neighbours & Russia

The Eastern neighbourhood is of strategic importance to the EU: although the Union’s relations with the states of the region vary significantly, the EU and its Eastern neighbours maintain high levels of interdependence in several different spheres, from trade and energy flows to the joint management of security challenges and migration.

The EU has long developed its policies in the region and its relations with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership.

Association Agreements containing provisions on the establishment of deep and comprehensive free trade areas, form the cornerstones of EU engagement. Such agreements have been signed and are implemented by Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.

 Eastern neighbours & Russia 2.0

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine reshaped demographics, geoeconomics, and geopolitics in the Eastern Partnership states. It also prompted the EU to innovate its engagement with the countries of which it consists. Security has become a key emphasis in addition to trade, energy or migration The EU and Member States provide Ukraine with substantial support that includes military assistance and training, while security cooperation with Moldova has been upgraded and the EU has engaged in mediation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In a dramatic change to the existing paradigm, the enlargement agenda has been expanded to the Eastern neighbourhood. Russia’s war on Ukraine encouraged the ‘Association Trio’ of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to formally apply for EU membership. The three states were granted the European perspective in return - Ukraine and Moldova received candidate status in June 2022, while Georgia was recognised as a potential candidate. Relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan also see developments outside of the enlargement track.

Over the coming years, the newfound momentum of the EU’s engagement with Eastern neighbours needs to be sustained by political will and sufficient resources. The EU’s success in the neighbourhood will depend to a great extent on its actions in the security realm – not only in Ukraine, but also in Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, given that Russia’s war and other trends in the regional security altered the status quo of protracted conflicts in these countries, creating also new needs for humanitarian assistance. Progress in the enlargement process will also be a major driver of positive change in the region, together with the easing of remaining trade barriers, encouraging good governance and regional connectivity conducive to peace and prosperity in the region.

Until 2022, the EU and Russia were bound by a dense web of political, economic and people-to-people contacts. Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally reconfigured the EU’s relationship with Moscow. The EU's response to Russia's war on Ukraine now dominates the mutual relationship, with Russia subject to multiple rounds of restrictive measures and the economic and energy relations having undergone a significant decoupling. 


  •  Black and white photo of Director Steven Everts
    19April 2024
    Just back from Kyiv, EUISS Director Steven Everts raises the alarm: Ukraine urgently needs more military support, above all air defence and fighter jets. He sets out four measures the EU needs to take now. Time is running out. Getting Ukraine to victory is achievable, it is the right thing to do and it is in our own interest.
  • Image of EUISS analyst Ondrej Ditrych
    22February 2024
    The death of Alexei Navalny is an indictment of Vladimir Putin’s regime. But his immense personal courage in opposing Putin’s rule is a reminder that there exists another Russia beyond cheering Kremlin loyalists and a subservient population. Navalny succeeded in exposing the base corruption, hypocrisy and pettiness of the Kremlin’s ‘necropolitical’ regime.
  • Kremlin palace Photo by Michael Parulava on Unsplash
    07February 2024

    On 7 February, the EUISS organised a closed-door event convening EU policymakers and Russia experts to explore the undercurrents within the Russian governing elite and society. 

  • 15December 2023
    A decade after the Maidan uprising, EU leaders have made the historic decision to open accession negotiations with Ukraine. But is the initial mood of jubilation that greeted this decision misplaced?
  • Download Brief
    21November 2023
    Although the bitter and protracted conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is now over, the risk of further hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia remains high. This Brief argues that the EU should seek deeper strategic engagement in the altered geopolitical landscape as Moscow’s ability to influence developments in the region weakens.
  • Download Brief
    03August 2023
    For Georgia the clock is ticking as in autumn 2023 the EU will decide whether to grant the country candidacy status. This Brief assesses how both domestic and external factors affect Georgia’s EU integration prospects and examines the obstacles on its path, including the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
  • Download Brief
    14June 2023
    This Brief explores the sphere in which Russia’s state-controlled irregular armed groups operate, focusing in particular on the notorious Wagner Group and their impact on violent conflicts.
  • Download Brief
    24May 2023
    In 2022 Moldova faced one of the most dangerous moments in its recent history. This Brief explores how the country has sought to strengthen its security and resilience in the shadow of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
  • Image of EUISS participants at Stockholm Forum © EUISS
    15May 2023

    The EUISS participated in the 2023 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development and organised a partner session entitled The War in Ukraine and the Future of Conflict and Peacemaking.

  • Image of discussants - © EUISS
    04April 2023

    On 4 April, the EUISS and Eastern Circles co-organised a meeting to discuss Ukraine's military and civilian resistance against the Russian invasion.