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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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    19September 2014

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    09September 2014

    This Chaillot Paper examines Russia’s Eurasian project. Is this a new twenty-first century version of the Soviet Union? Does the project make economic sense, or is it simply a ploy by Putin to restore Russia’s great power status? It also looks at how the crisis in Ukraine will affect Moscow’s plans, as well as how the EU could interact with this potential rival.

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    04July 2014

    Although Moscow appears to have achieved its short-term goals in Ukraine, what about its long-term objectives? This Alert demonstrates how, despite the domestic boost for Russia’s president, the destabilising of country on its doorstep hardly counts as a Russian victory.

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    28May 2014

    This Brief assesses the array of challenges facing Ukraine as it attempts to maintain territorial unity and reform its oligarchic economy. Despite the turmoil that has plagued the country in recent months, can its new president, Petro Poroshenko, now embark on a mission to save the state?

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    04April 2014

    This Alert weighs up the costs and benefits of Putin’s recent military venture in Crimea, and demonstrates why, in the context of the foreign policy race between the Russia and the West, the latter may have to up its step.

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    21March 2014

    This Brief examines the attempts by the Kremlin to establish a rival to the European Union in the post-Soviet sphere. But given Russia’s overwhelming dominance, do other post-Soviet states wholeheartedly share Moscow’s vision? And what can the EU do to ensure that the country adheres to the rules of the WTO and respects its neighbours’ political sovereignty?

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    14March 2014

    This Alert explores the international crisis in Crimea from China’s perspective. While it is clear that China disapproves of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine at several levels, Chinese interests in eastern Europe remain too small for Beijing to take an open and vocal stance – at least for now.

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    07March 2014

    Following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, this Alert offers three possible scenarios on how developments in Crimea will play out. Are we witnessing a ‘Transnistrisation’ of Crimea? And what is at stake for both Putin and the West?

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    07February 2014

    The third in a series of EUISS Alerts focusing on the prospects for Afghanistan in 2014, this Alert evaluates Russia’s current policy towards Afghanistan and how it may evolve in the future. In particular, it shows that Russia’s overall approach is still mainly determined by issues relating to America’s military presence there rather than by its bilateral relations with Kabul.

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    07February 2014

    As the 2014 Winter Olympics get underway, this brief looks at what Moscow hopes to gain from its $51 billion Olympic investment. The 2008 Beijing Olympics are seen as a model for hosting successful games that showcase national development. But with global headlines dominated by stories of corruption, human rights abuses, anti-gay laws and the very real threat of terrorist attacks, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the Russian government regrets its decision to bid for the games.

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