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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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  • 08November 2005

    That the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party won in the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan on Sunday was no surprise. The good news is that the election was far less fraudulent than the last, even though the OSCE reported that the voting fell short of international standards. Much now hangs in the balance for this Caspian Republic

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    01November 2005

    The existence of Belarus - Europe's 'last dictatorship' - on its borders poses a problem for the newly enlarged EU. The authoritarian regime in Belarus may be fearful of the changes that have recently occurred in its vicinity yet it continues to rule with confidence.

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    26October 2005
    By

    In November 2004, the EU set forth a new framework for policy towards Belarus. The regional context around Belarus has since changed dramatically, with an enlarged EU, a 'revolutionary' Ukraine, a more defensive Russia and more active US. EU policy may be strengthened to reflect and work with these changes.

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    01October 2005

    A key objective of the European Union is to have a stable, secure, prosperous and democratic neighbourhood. Failing an offer of accession to close neighbours in the medium term, the EU should and can offer stronger CFSP engagement.

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    01July 2005

    With the European Union’s 2004 round of enlargement, its neighbourhood now stretches from the Balkans to the Southern Caucasus, and from Russia to the Southern Mediterranean. This new neighbourhood suffers from serious deficits in terms of security, development and democracy, which constitute a serious challenge for the EU’s own security.

  • 01January 2005

    Events in Ukraine reflect the changes occurring in Europe and pose a new ‘eastern question’. The first story relates the birth of a revitalised Ukraine. The two candidates in the elections, Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych, in themselves do not signal this birth – but 17 days of peaceful demonstrations in Kyiv and other cities do, as does the decision of the Ukrainian Supreme Court to call for a new second round on 26 December.

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    01January 2005

    The Cold War is finally ending in Europe and the shape of a new order is becoming visible. Europe’s institutional structure is different from the bipolar era or even the transition years of the 1990s. The European Union is emerging as the Continent’s primary security provider. With enlargement in 2004, a new Europe has been born, founded around the ambitions and values of the EU.

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    01June 2004

    With its mosaic of problems, and their potential consequences, the wider Black Sea region is one of the more important challenges that the enlarged European Union will face.

  • 01April 2004

    The results of Russia's presidential elections on 14 March held no surprises. The incumbent Vladimir Putin received 71 per cent of the vote, followed far behind by the Communist Party candidate, Nikolai Kharitonov , Sergei Glazyev and the liberal Irina Khakamada.

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    01March 2004

    An analysis on Russia first published in the Washington Quarterly on Russia-EU relations, by Dov Lynch.

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