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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. 

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  • Participants of EUISS side event at MSC
    14February 2020

    The EUISS hosted a foresight side event at the global security forum.

  • Photo of EUISS podcast recording studio
    09January 2020

    The EUISS ‘What if’ podcast is a foreign policy foresight conversation: it looks at fictional scenarios that could happen between now and the end of 2021.

  • Florence Gaub, Gustav Lindstrom, Stanislav Secrieru, Daniel Fiott
    03June 2019

    From 3-4 June 2019, the EUISS supported the (ESDC, the National University of Public Service of Hungary and CEPOL with the 14th CSDP high-level course 2018-2019.

  • 19September 2018

    On 19 September 2018, the EUISS in collaboration with the George C. Marshall Center’s European Center for Security Studies organised a workshop on transatlantic security.

  • 26January 2018

    On 26 January 2018, the EUISS organised a public conference to present a report on Chinese and Russian defence industries and to discuss the issue of European arms exports to Asia.

  • 02October 2017

    On 2 October 2017, the EUISS and the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU organised a high-level conference on hybrid threats. During three panels focusing on the current state of play, cyber resilience and strategic communications, the conference encouraged debate about the efforts made by the EU to counter hybrid threats.

  • 03May 2017

    The roundtable discussion looked into the concept of a newly emerging partnership between Russia and China. Speakers identified certain areas of rapprochement between the two countries, but overall concluded that the differences outweigh them, and that there is no new actual new Eastern Partnership formed yet.

  • 03May 2017

    In 2017, for the third year running, the EU-Russia Forum was co-hosted by the EUISS and supported by the EEAS. The forum convened senior officials and experts from across Europe, Russia, and the United States to evaluate the current state of EU-Russia relations and propose ways forward.

  • 08March 2017

    On 8 March, the EUISS and DG NEAR jointly organised a Seminar on building resilience in the EU’s surrounding regions. The Seminar brought together experts from Europe’s Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods, as well as European institutions to explore the challenges and opportunities in building resilience in the EU’s surrounding regions.

  • 25November 2016

    On 25 October, the EUISS, in collaboration with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the EU External Action Service (EEAS), gathered analysts and experts in a workshop to discuss the challenges and dilemmas of Russia’s political agenda.

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