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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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    27May 2020
    In recent years Japan has sought to rekindle diplomatic, political and economic ties with Eastern Europe. This Brief examines how Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 may have motivated this charm offensive, prompted by Tokyo’s fears that such aggression could potentially be replicated in the Far East, as well as by concerns about transfers of military technology from Eastern Europe to China and the weakening of the global non-proliferation regime. It shows how Japan’s foreign policy goals in the eastern neighbourhood overlap with those of the EU, and highlights the potential for strengthening synergies between them.
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  • 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.

  • 16May 2003

    The first meeting of the new Task Force on the Caucasus was held on May 16, 2003 at the EUISS in Paris. The conference was entitled 'Security and Insecurity in the South Caucasus', and brought together officials from concerned European ministries, officials from the EU Council and the Commission and a range of international experts on the region.

  • 11September 2002

    A seminar on 'The EU and Russia: a Security Partnership?', in association with the Russia and Eurasia Programme of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, took place at the Institute on 25 March 2002.

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