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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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    01December 2007

    The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) framework obliges the EU to coordinate closely with Georgia on its policies for conflict resolution in the breakaway entities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Brussels and Tbilisi do not share the same time perspective, however.

  • 15October 2007

    This was the first in a series of EUISS seminars on the 'frozen conflicts' in the EU's Eastern neighbourhood. After taking stock of the current situation in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Georgia, it focused on confidence-building measures and the prospects for deeper engagement by the EU.

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    01October 2007

    Over the last ten years, the EU Special Representatives (EUSRs) have pioneered EU foreign policy in countries and regions of direct interest to the Union. EUSRs are a face of the Union, enhancing its visibility, and they give it a voice, seeking to deliver a single message to local and international partners, playing an important role in EU foreign policy.

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    01September 2007

    By introducing the Wider Europe concept and the European Neighborhood Policy, the European Union has actually entered a region which Russia has long considered the sphere of its national interests. The Occasional Paper explores the resultant ‘zero-sum game’.

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    01May 2007

    Lorsque les mondes figés de la Guerre froide et de la Détente se sont effondrés pour donner naissance à une nouvelle Europe, s’est posée la question de savoir quelle relation allaient bien pouvoir entretenir les deux puissances contraintes désormais de se partager pacifiquement un continent : l’Union européenne et la Russie.

  • 23April 2007

    The EUISS organised this workshop to discuss Russia's domestic situation one year before the Presidential elections; recent changes in Russia's foreign policy; and policy options for the EU against the backdrop of domestic and foreign policy developments.

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    01July 2006

    For much of the 1990s, Central Asia was not on the EU radar screen. Lately, however, it has started to matter for the EU. The ongoing European military commitment in Afghanistan, the events in Andijan in Uzbekistan, the violent change of power in Kyrgyzstan – all highlight a highly volatile region.

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    29May 2006

    The European Union Institute for Security Studies was given the role of deepening cooperation with the Russian academic community in the field of crisis management. This paper is a first product of this joint research project. The objective here was for Professor Nikitin to explore in a frank manner how Russian elites and observers view the EU, ESDP and key security developments around Russia.

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    01April 2006

    The OSCE is in crisis. There can be no doubt but that the OSCE today, as compared to its heyday during the Cold War and in the mid-1990s, is a far less visible landmark on the European institutional landscape than was formerly the case.

  • 24February 2006

    On 24 February 2006, the Institute organised a high-level seminar on whether the EU can have a policy towards the Black Sea region and develop a region-wide strategy and, if so, how and in which areas.

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    01February 1996

    Rudolf Joó, a former Hungarian Deputy Minister of Defence sets out his thoughts on the subject, starting from the successes and difficulties encountered on the path to reform that he helped promote and widening the study to a more general context.

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    01October 1995

    This study is about extending that community eastwards, and makes the claim that a lasting peace is already beginning to be consolidated in the area of Central and East European that was under Soviet domination during the Cold War.

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    01June 1995

    Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the three Baltic states - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - have made significant strides in consolidating their independence, putting themselves not only on the geographical map of Europe, but also on the mental map of Western policy-makers.

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    01November 1994

    The issue of crisis management and conflict prevention in post-communist Europe is an issue which has already been addressed by the Institute in earlier Chaillot Papers, and this paper takes the discussion further by looking at the problems arising over peacekeeping in the member states of the CIS.

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    01February 1994

    Among the range of problems which have arisen following the breakup of the Soviet Union, those of Ukraine and its relations with Russia, particularly in the nuclear field, are among the most difficult. They present particular dilemmas for West European security policy-makers endeavouring to develop a satisfactory mix of approaches to the two countries.

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    01May 1993

    In Europe the collapse of the communist system has given rise to great aspirations to democracy and civil rights. At the same time, new tensions are accompanying this move to democracy, whether in connection with the right to self-determination, minority rights, or the dissolution of former compound states - the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

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