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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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    15July 2013

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    08July 2013
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    This brief offers an evaluation of the ongoing political transition in Georgia explaining that, although the risk of major social unrest remains low, and that there is no geopolitical drift away from the West, there are a number of issues of concern for the international community: the transparency of the judicial process, the lack of political vision currently demonstrated by the government, and the rising influence of traditionalist forces in Georgian society.

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    01July 2013

    Following negotiations that lasted over a decade, on Friday 28 June, the Trans-Adriatic pipeline (TAP) was chosen over Nabucco West to transport Azeri gas to the European markets. In light of the on-going debate on energy security, this alert explores the motivations behind the decision and its implications for the EU.

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    06May 2013
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    On 30 April 2013, the ECHR ruled that Yulia Tymoshenko had been subjected to arbitrary and unlawful detention before her trial in 2011. Yet, even if Tymoshenko’s case epitomises much of what is currently wrong with Ukraine’s politics, the problems facing the country are complex and cannot be reduced to the (mis)treatment of one politician.

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    26March 2013

    After a period of relative stability and significant progress in its reform efforts, Moldovan politics has (re)entered a phase of instability, creating uncertainty about its future direction and its relationship with the EU. This notwithstanding, Moldova potentially remains the best example of a successful transformation under the Union’s Eastern Partnership.

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    04March 2013
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    Sanctions seem to have become one of the EU’s weapons of choice to effect change beyond its borders and the case of Belarus testifies in particular to the Union’s ambition to conduct coercive diplomacy. Yet, despite the various steps taken by the EU over the past years, little lasting success has been achieved so far in enforcing meaningful change in Europe’s ‘last dictatorship’.

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    25July 2012

    Europe's financial crisis has allowed Russia to expand its already substantial influence in the Mediterranean. Russian involvement in regional bailouts, energy deals and shifting alliances means that EU now faces a difficult balancing act in an area of strategic importance.

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    12July 2012

    As many European governments introduce their biggest defence budget cuts in years, the impact on their collective military capabilities may be lessened by exploiting two directives designed to integrate the EU defence market.

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    02March 2012

    Coinciding with the Russian presidential elections, the EUISS has published a report in which a group of Russian authors explore the challenge faced by Russia’s political elite from a rapidly evolving society. The report examines the recent protests and the need for political reform and assesses how the gap between state and society has undermined the legitimacy of the ruling class.

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    26May 2011

    What scenarios lie ahead for Russia after the March 2012 presidential elections? The authors of this paper define potential ‘game changers’ and provide conclusions as to which post-election scenarios might be more favourable to Russia, and to the European Union.

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