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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 along 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.

Russia’s war on Ukraine prompted this ‘Association Trio’ to formally apply for EU membership: Ukraine and Moldova were granted candidate status in June 2022, while Georgia was recognised as a potential candidate. Relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan are also advancing but outside of the enlargement track.

Beyond the Eastern Partnership, Russia remains the EU’s biggest geographical neighbour. Until 2022, the EU and Russia were bound by a complex network of political, economic and people-to-people contacts. Yet, Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has halted many aspects of the EU’s relationship with Moscow: European attempts at curtailing Russian aggression on Ukraine have come to dominate a relationship which once was mostly built on fostering trade and energy cooperation.

 Eastern neighbours & Russia 2.0

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has reshaped demographics, geoeconomics, and geopolitics in the Eastern Partnership states, prompting the EU to take radical decisions in its engagement with its eastern neighbourhood, made up of Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Whereas prior engagement focused on trade, energy, migration, and security, the EU has started channelling funds to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons, while it has extended the enlargement process along its eastern border.

Over the coming years, the newfound momentum of engagement needs to be sustained and backed up with resources. Ultimately, the EU’s success in the neighbourhood will largely depend on its actions in the security realm – not only in Ukraine, but also in Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, given that Russia’s war has altered the status quo of protracted conflicts in said countries. Among other factors, support for refugees, easing of remaining trade barriers, improving regional connectivity, and progress in the enlargement process will co-determine the EU’s success in the neighbourhood in the period to come.

Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has halted many aspects of the EU’s relationship with Moscow: EU attempts at curtailing Russian aggression on Ukraine – through sanctions on Russia and weapons deliveries to Ukraine – has come to dominate a relationship which once was mostly built on fostering trade and energy cooperation, a security dialogue, and visa liberalisation.






  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 18January 2008

    The Russia Task Force Meeting on 18 January 2008 was the first of two meetings dealing with the Russian Parliamentary and Presidential elections, and their implications for Russian foreign policy, and Russia-EU relations in particular.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 05April 2004

    The aim of the seminar was to discuss with Russian experts and EU officials the state of affairs in Russia after the elections, Russian views on European and international developments.

  • 01September 2003

    With the current 'big bang' enlargement nearing its conclusion, it has become crucial to assess if and to what extent the European Union can and will widen further. The ISS devoted a seminar to this issue, with participants from both current and future member states.