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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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    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 2006

    The Rose Revolution of 2003 may have brought fragile democracy to this former Soviet republic, but the country remains bedevilled by institutional weakness and internal conflicts. This Chaillot Paper evaluates the EU’s stakes in Georgia as well as the security challenges it poses, and presents ways forward for EU engagement to strengthen this strategically important state.

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    18January 2006

    The appointment of a new EU Special Representative towards the South Caucasus offers an opportunity to review EU policy towards the region. The following analysis is an extract of a Chaillot Paper, entitled 'Why Georgia Matters', focusing on how the EU can sharpen its policy towards Georgia in particular.

  • 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
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    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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