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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. 


  • 15December 2023
    A decade after the Maidan uprising, EU leaders have made the historic decision to open accession negotiations with Ukraine. But is the initial mood of jubilation that greeted this decision misplaced?
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    21November 2023
    Although the bitter and protracted conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is now over, the risk of further hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia remains high. This Brief argues that the EU should seek deeper strategic engagement in the altered geopolitical landscape as Moscow’s ability to influence developments in the region weakens.
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    03August 2023
    For Georgia the clock is ticking as in autumn 2023 the EU will decide whether to grant the country candidacy status. This Brief assesses how both domestic and external factors affect Georgia’s EU integration prospects and examines the obstacles on its path, including the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
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    14June 2023
    This Brief explores the sphere in which Russia’s state-controlled irregular armed groups operate, focusing in particular on the notorious Wagner Group and their impact on violent conflicts.
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    24May 2023
    In 2022 Moldova faced one of the most dangerous moments in its recent history. This Brief explores how the country has sought to strengthen its security and resilience in the shadow of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
  • Image of EUISS participants at Stockholm Forum © EUISS
    15May 2023

    The EUISS participated in the 2023 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development and organised a partner session entitled The War in Ukraine and the Future of Conflict and Peacemaking.

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    04April 2023

    On 4 April, the EUISS and Eastern Circles co-organised a meeting to discuss Ukraine's military and civilian resistance against the Russian invasion.

  • Image of panel - © DGAP
    22March 2023

    On 22 March, the EUISS and the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) organised a meeting to take stock of various ramifications of the war in Ukraine for the EU's Eastern neighbourhood.

  • Image of participants - © EUISS
    23February 2023

    On 23 February, the EUISS organised a roundtable to share insights and knowledge on the prospective impact of greater transatlantic cooperation to counter hybrid threats in the Western Balkans. 

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    06February 2023
    As the conflict in Ukraine continues to unfold, Türkiye is trying to perform a delicate balancing act. This Brief explores how Türkiye seeks to maintain equidistance from Russia and the West to assert its strategic autonomy while exploiting Russia’s current weakness to project influence in the Black Sea region and beyond.