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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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    04April 2014

    This Alert weighs up the costs and benefits of Putin’s recent military venture in Crimea, and demonstrates why, in the context of the foreign policy race between the Russia and the West, the latter may have to up its step.

  • 28March 2014

    In light of the recent turbulence in the east and worsening of EU-Russia relations, the EUISS organised a Task Force meeting on the eastern neighbourhood on 28 March 2014 in Paris.

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    21March 2014

    This Brief examines the attempts by the Kremlin to establish a rival to the European Union in the post-Soviet sphere. But given Russia’s overwhelming dominance, do other post-Soviet states wholeheartedly share Moscow’s vision? And what can the EU do to ensure that the country adheres to the rules of the WTO and respects its neighbours’ political sovereignty?

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    14March 2014

    This Alert explores the international crisis in Crimea from China’s perspective. While it is clear that China disapproves of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine at several levels, Chinese interests in eastern Europe remain too small for Beijing to take an open and vocal stance – at least for now.

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    07March 2014

    Following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, this Alert offers three possible scenarios on how developments in Crimea will play out. Are we witnessing a ‘Transnistrisation’ of Crimea? And what is at stake for both Putin and the West?

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    07February 2014

    The third in a series of EUISS Alerts focusing on the prospects for Afghanistan in 2014, this Alert evaluates Russia’s current policy towards Afghanistan and how it may evolve in the future. In particular, it shows that Russia’s overall approach is still mainly determined by issues relating to America’s military presence there rather than by its bilateral relations with Kabul.

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    07February 2014

    As the 2014 Winter Olympics get underway, this brief looks at what Moscow hopes to gain from its $51 billion Olympic investment. The 2008 Beijing Olympics are seen as a model for hosting successful games that showcase national development. But with global headlines dominated by stories of corruption, human rights abuses, anti-gay laws and the very real threat of terrorist attacks, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the Russian government regrets its decision to bid for the games.

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    30January 2014

    What does 2014 have in store for the EU’s eastern neighbourhood? This alert provides a succinct overview of the major political events and developments likely to shape the agenda this year.

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    17January 2014

    With the next EU-Russia Summit fast approaching, this brief assesses the cooperative, yet competitive, nature of the relationship between Brussels and Moscow. With the ongoing spats over the countries in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood – and the absence of grands projets – how is it possible to deepen relations further?

  • 11December 2013

    This off-the-record brainstorming session brought together representatives from the EEAS, European Commission, Council of the EU, Permanent Representations of the EU member states and a few selected experts to discuss the future of the Eastern Partnership.

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    04November 2009

    'The Obama Moment' provides an authoritative analysis of the most topical global questions of our time: multilateralism, the economy, disarmament and climate change. Will the election of Obama facilitate enhanced transatlantic co-operation in dealing with these and other challenges?

  • 19October 2009

    This book breaks new ground by providing the first comprehensive review of every ESDP operation to date. It explains how the EU institutions responsible for international crisis management have developed and functioned, reviews the civil and military resources available to the ESDP, and analyses the key partnerships between the EU and other international organisations.

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    10September 2009

    It came as no surprise to hear Turkish and Armenian policymakers announce that they are launching final talks to establish diplomatic relations. This is the third move towards normalisation – after football diplomacy and the April 2009 road map – which has resulted from Swiss-mediated talks behind the scenes. The new framework proposes the signature of two protocols on the establishment of diplomatic ties and the development of bilateral relations.

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    13February 2009

    The new gas deal is a step forward in ending a period of ‘special’ energy relations between Kyiv and Moscow. A more transparent gas import scheme to Ukraine and the convergence of import prices with those in the EU definitely make rent-seeking activities less likely.

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    20January 2009

    This collaborative effort of the EUISS research team highlights what it considers to be the major political event of 2009: the election of President Barack Obama and the impact that the change in the American administration will have on the world. It covers the priority areas for US-EU cooperation of global governance, climate change, disarmament and non-proliferation, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and transatlantic relations.

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    01January 2009
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    EULEX Kosovo is finally up and running after a long planning phase. It began operations on 9 December 2008 and has been breaking new ground for the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) as the EU's largest civilian mission.

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    06November 2008

    So far the European Union has not been very successful in its attempts to apply a strict positive conditionality approach towards Belarus. Since the parliamentary elections in 2000 − the first national elections after the controversial constitutional referendum of 1996 − Belarusian elections have been treated by the EU as a litmus test for the improvement of relations.

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    04November 2008

    This issue of the EUISS newsletter looks at the need to avoid confrontational bipolarity in the wake Georgia conflict, assesses prospects for a regional solution to the Afghanistan conflict, and examines ESDP ten years after the St Malo Anglo-French summit. It also gives a round up of the Institute’s recent seminar series on the European Security Strategy, as well as the latest publications and press clippings.

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    15August 2008

    Despite their recent conflict and its impact on relations with the European Union, the futures of both Georgia and Russia are inextricably linked with Europe. The Director of the EUISS discusses the different European paths of the two countries, and presents a vision for the EU’s interaction with them to build a more secure future for the wider Eurasian continent.

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    12August 2008

    The hostilities between Russia and Georgia reflect a lack of long-term strategic thinking on the part of Russia, which is jeopardising relations with the West in order to assert itself as a global power, as well a political climate of increasing nationalism in Georgia. Neither of these factors is constructive in resolving the conflicts over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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