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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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  • 11September 2014

    The EUISS held its annual conference on 11/12 September in central Paris. This year’s event, entitled ‘European security in a changing global environment’, was an opportunity to convene numerous policy planners and think tankers from across the Europe to discuss European security during a period of major institutional change within the Union.

  • 18June 2014

    The second EUISS Task Force on the eastern neighbourhood, this meeting explored the future of the Eurasian Union and possible steps forward for Ukraine following the election of President Poroshenko.

  • 22May 2014

    The EU-Russia Forum, hosted by Carnegie Europe in partnership with the EUISS, convened civil society experts from across Europe, Russia, and the US in Brussels for an exchange of views with EU officials on the current EU-Russian relationship.

  • 24April 2014

    The second EUISS Task Force on the eastern neighbourhood, this meeting explored possible steps for how the EU could keep Moldova and Georgia on track to complete their EU association deals.

  • 28March 2014

    In light of the recent turbulence in the east and worsening of EU-Russia relations, the EUISS organised a Task Force meeting on the eastern neighbourhood on 28 March 2014 in Paris.

  • 11December 2013

    This off-the-record brainstorming session brought together representatives from the EEAS, European Commission, Council of the EU, Permanent Representations of the EU member states and a few selected experts to discuss the future of the Eastern Partnership.

  • 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.

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