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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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    06December 2010

    A thaw in the frosty EU-Russia relationship has been occurring over the last year. But with Russia’s cheerier tone being buoyed by strategic gains in its neighbourhood, the EU should be under no illusion about Russia’s agenda.

  • 01December 2010

    In this piece, the author ponders on how the high-speed Sapsan trains can be seens as a parable of the Russian leadership's superficial notion of modernisation.

  • 01December 2010

    Co-hosted with the European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, this seminar explored the EU’s non-recognition and engagement policy to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the societal and economic aspects of its soft power approach.

  • 10November 2010

    The third annual EU-Washington Forum, held on 8-9 November 2010 in Washington DC, addressed the challenge of strengthening the EU-US relationship post Lisbon and explored options for reinvigorating the common agenda.

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    22October 2010

    In this quarter's issue of the newsletter, EUISS director Álvaro de Vasconcelos, explores the increasing inter-connection of actors beyond the big powers, F. Stephen Larrabee highlights the work yet to be done by the EU in the Balkans and the Eastern neighbourhood, and Luis Peral considers the EU's responsibility within the International Criminal Court.

  • 05October 2010

    This second seminar in the 'Unfinished business in Europe' series focused on Eastern Europe with a particular emphasis on EU and US approaches to regional relations and domestic transformation in the region.

  • 16April 2010

    The Institute hosted the seminar titled ‘European Foreign Policy and the Black Sea Region’ on 16 April 2010 as part of the Harvard Black Sea Security Programme 2010. Some of the issues discussed included the respective roles of the EU, Russia and Turkey in the political development of the Black Sea region.

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    12April 2010

    In a historic ceremony on 7 April 2010, the Prime Ministers of Poland and Russia marked the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre during which Soviet secret police executed thousands of Polish prisoners of war and buried them in mass graves alongside victims of the Stalinist purges.  The belated gesture represented an unprecedented step towards a process of reconciliation between the two nations, one that would never have begun without an acknowledgement of Soviet responsibility for the atrocity.  Polish and Russian commentators were optimistic, and expectations abounded of a new era in Ru

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    09April 2010

    The New START, a bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty, aims to significantly reduce the weapons stockpiles of both the US and Russia. While it may be seen as a positive step towards disarmament and for US-Russia relations, getting it past the US Senate is Obama’s next big challenge, writes Jean Pascal Zanders.

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    07April 2010

    Articles in this current issue: "After Lisbon: the States of the Union", "The EU and natural gas: the new security agenda", and "Obama's first year: a transformational presidency?"

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    01December 2003

    The South Caucasus contains three states that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Geographically, the region is populated by some fifteen million people, and links the Caspian Sea basin to the Black Sea on the east-to-west axis, and is the juncture between the greater Middle East, Turkey and Iran, and the Russian Federation.

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    01November 2003

    EU enlargement raises important questions: How much further can the EU enlarge? Should the EU encompass geographic ‘Europe’ or stop at the western border of the CIS? Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) clearly allows any geographically based European state to apply for membership.

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    01July 2003

    EU-Russian security cooperation remains nascent, but some important ground has been cleared since 2000. Yet, the dialogue is neither without ambiguity or problems. It is replete with both. This Occasional Paper examines three facets of EU-Russia security relations.

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    01June 2003

    During the last year, the Institute has participated in a consortium of policy research organisations in the United States, Europe, Russia and Asia that aims to strengthen the G-8’s ‘Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction’ initiative. The consortium, led by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS, Washington, DC), seeks to support and promote cooperative threat reduction (CTR) activities.

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    01May 2003

    Despite the crisis in Iraq, President Vladimir Putin has accelerated a strategy of alignment between Russia and the states and security organisations of the Euro-Atlantic community. In this, Moscow has dropped previously held notions of multipolarity in which Russia figured as an independent, if enfeebled, ‘pole’, balancing off other ‘poles’ in international affairs.

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    01January 2003

    Lancé lors d’une réunion des ministres des affaires étrangères, le Pacte de stabilité a vu le jour en juin 1999. Cette nouvelle structure a pour ambition d’accompagner les Balkans pendant la période transitoire précédant leur intégration dans les structures euro-atlantiques.

  • 01September 2002

    The year following 11 September witnessed Russian movement on a wide front. In the flurry, however, the origins of Russian shifts have been obscured. It is worth recalling that they reside not so much in September 2001 as in 1999. 11 September was an accelerator, not a turning point.

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    01September 2002

    The official Polish position on the future of the European Union is characterised above all by continuity and evolution. ... Following a period of ‘uninformed enthusiasm’ in the formulation of the official position,the Polish government is trying to anticipate the role that Poland may play as a future member,albeit a member of somewhat limited potential.

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    01September 2002

    One year on, the only thing that is systematic about the international system is its disorder. The United States, shaken to the core by the terrorist attacks and the fraud perpetrated by leaders of globalised companies, is relentlessly pursuing its course down the path of unilateralism.

  • 01May 2002

    One could have been forgiven for thinking that little had changed since the 1980s when, in late February, thousands of pro-Romanian demonstrators took to the streets of Chisinau, Moldova's capital, to protest against government measures seen as pro-Russian.

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