Russia’s war against Ukraine has changed not only the architecture of Europe’s security order but also directly impacted the EU’s neighborhood and enlargement policy. On June 23 to 24, 2022, the European Council adopted conclusions on the applications of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia – the so-called Associated Trio – for EU membership. Its granting of candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and its readiness to grant this status to Georgia once the country has addressed some key reforms marked a watershed moment for both the eastern neighborhood and the EU’s role in this region.
With all eyes on the EU’s next steps and the debates in its member states, the dynamics of European foreign policy have already shifted. Given Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the EU is expected to play a new, geopolitical role in both its neighborhood and the world. The idea of a European Political Community recently proposed by French President Emanuel Macron and echoed by European Council President Charles Michel offers a new framework for countries across the continent – Wider Europe – to address issues related to security and geopolitics. In addition, it is becoming more important to address the region that includes the south Caucasus and the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) – Wider Black Sea – that could become another hub for cooperation with focus on connectivity, including energy and transportation, as well as security.
The Think Tank Network on the Eastern Partnership, initiated by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in fall 2020 with the support of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), brings together think tanks from the EU and the countries of the Eastern Partnership. The platform gives them the opportunity to identify and discuss rapidly changing developments and critical issues for the future of the neighborhood and enlargement policies. It also aims to foster systematic cooperation among the participating think tanks and with EU policy-makers on key questions such as:
- What are the consequences of the European Council’s conclusions and what do they mean for the EU and its policies on the Eastern Partnership and enlargement?
- What are the implications and next steps for Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia? What will the framework be to link these countries to the Western Balkans?
- How can the EU adapt its policies to respond to the challenges in its eastern neighborhood? Can the EU become a geopolitical actor?
The network has produced a variety of events and publications that focus, for example, on the rule of law and green transformation in the countries of the Eastern Partnership. Some events are public, including those with high-level representatives from the European External Action Service (EEAS) and DG NEAR, while others are closed-door workshops for network members. The latter are informed by publications based on so-called national consultations – discussions of a focal topic with experts and representatives of civil society from every Eastern Partnership country.
- May 2023: Workshop on “Ukraine’s Wartime Integration Into the EU: A Reality Check”
On May 31, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting (IER) organized an online discussion on “Ukraine’s Wartime Integration Into the EU: A Reality Check.” The event included a panel discussion with Veronika Movchan (IER), Olena Halushka (Anti-corruption Action Center; International Center for Ukrainian Victory), and Wilfried Jilge (Center for International Peace Operations) that was moderated by Anastasia Pociumban (DGAP).
- March 2023: High-level event
On March 29, DGAP and DG NEAR, in cooperation with SCEEUS and the Swedish Presidency, organized a high-level event in Brussels on “Russia’s War Against Ukraine: Navigating the New Reality in the EU Eastern Neighborhood,” which brought together more than 200 participants. Key topics related to the eastern partnership and resulting from Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine were discussed. The panels focused on the future of enlargement and accession policies, as well as the role of the EU as a peace actor for the conflicts in the region. It served as a platform for debate and reflection for key stakeholders such as think tanks, policy experts, and policymakers working on policies related to the eastern neighbourhood and enlargement, as well as peace and security. The event was organized with the with the logistical support of cecoforma.
- March 2023: Fact-finding trip, interviews, and national consultations in Azerbaijan and Armenia
From March 12 to 20, the DGAP team traveled to Baku and Yerevan for consultations and interviews. The main focus of the visit was to understand the key domestic trends in both countries; the situation around Nagorno Karabakh with risks of escalation; trends in connectivity; relations with the EU and other neighbors like Iran and Turkey; and the overall impact of the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine on the South Caucasus.
- March 2023: National consultations on Moldova’s energy
On March 9, online consultations on connectivity – facilitated by IPRE – were held with a group of experts from Moldova and the EU. In the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine, weaponization of energy supply from Russia has become a crucial issue and led to a new security situation. Moldova is facing an ongoing energy crisis and taking decisive steps in diversifying energy supply routes and speeding up measures in energy efficiency and the use of renewables. Moldova is looking how to enhance its energy security and independence from Russia and ensure better energy connectivity with the EU and the other players in the region.
- Feb. 2023: National consultations on Georgia’s connectivity
On February 28, online consultations on connectivity – facilitated by the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) – were held with a group of experts from Georgia and the EU. In the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine, weaponization of energy supply from Russia has become a crucial issue and led to a new security situation. The South Caucasus has gained twofold importance since the invasion, as firstly countries in the eastern neighbourhood are looking how to decouple from Russia and ensure better connectivity with the EU, and secondly Russia is looking to circumvent sanctions via the Southern route. Furthermore, the role of Black Sea region has been re-emerging in the context of security and connectivity as it plays a major role for connectivity between Europe and Asia via Central Asia, the Caspian Sea, and the South Caucasus as well as Russia and the Middle East.
- Feb. 2023: Advisory board meeting
On February 20, the advisory board and the organizers of the Think Tank Network gathered online. The meeting focused on updates and developments in the Eastern Partnership countries as well as discussions and feedback regarding the network itself.
- Jan. 2023: Brussels discussion of the DGAP Report “Russia’s War in Ukraine: Rethinking the EU’s Eastern Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy”
On January 25, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) presented the DGAP Report “Russia’s War in Ukraine: Rethinking the EU’s Eastern Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy,” written by Stefan Meister (DGAP), Milan Nič (DGAP), Iskra Kirova (OSF), and Steven Blockmans (CEPS), in Brussels. The presentation was followed by a discussion on the prospects for energizing the EU’s enlargement process with the Association Trio and the reshaping of the Eastern Partnership policy to better respond to the new geopolitical reality in the wider region.
- Dec. 2022: Workshop on key trends and issues in the EaP region
On December 14, the network met digitally to reflect on the past year and discuss key issues for 2023. After updates on the network were given by DGAP, inputs were provided by Jan Marian (Special Envoy for Eastern Partnership, Czech MFA), Eduard Auer (EEAS), and Mate Csicsai (DG NEAR). The workshop also delved into the main developments for each EaP country in 2022 based on these six papers that looked at the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine and how it has changed the domestic political situation:
- Input paper by Anastasia Pociumban (DGAP): The Impact of the Russian War Against Ukraine on Moldova
- Input paper by Anna Gevorgyan (Center for Culture and Civilization Studies): The Impact of the Russian War Against Ukraine on Armenia
- Input paper by Sergiy Solodkyy (New Europe Center): The Impact of the Russian War Against Ukraine
- Input paper by Pavel Slunkin (ECFR): The Impact of the Russian War Against Ukraine on Belarus
- Input paper by Murad Nasibov (Justus-Liebig University of Giessen): The Impact of the Russian War Against Ukraine on Azerbaijan
- Input paper by Ivanna Machitidze (New Vision University): The Impact of the Russian War Against Ukraine on Georgia
- Dec. 2022: National consultations on Ukraine’s energy and connectivity
On December 12, online consultations on connectivity – facilitated by Olena Pavlenko (DiXi Group) – were held with a group of experts from Ukraine and the EU. In the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the weaponization of energy supply from Russia has become a crucial issue and led to a new security situation. Ukraine is dealing with the disruption of connectivity related to the blockage of Black Sea ports and the destruction of civil infrastructure such as energy facilities, physical infrastructure, roads, telecommunications, and public buildings.
- Nov. 2022: Expert workshop on EU Eastern Europe policy ahead of the Swedish EU presidency
From November 24 to 25, the Think Tank Network Advisory Board and other experts met in Stockholm for the workshop “Rethinking EU Eastern Europe Policy Ahead of the Swedish EU Presidency” organized by DGAP and the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies. This event aimed to develop policy recommendations through discussions that brought representatives from the region together with the policy-makers of the Swedish presidency. A joint input paper by Steven Blockmans, Iskra Kirova, Stefan Meister, and Milan Nič was also presented and debated.
- Sept. 2022: National Consultations
Network organizers traveled to Georgia and Armenia for high-level consultations.
- Aug. 2022: Bled Strategic Forum
Organizers of the network attended high-level panels and met contacts at the Bled Strategic Forum 2022.
- July 2022: Workshop on Candidate Status Recommendations
The following questions related to the European Council’s recommendations of June 23 and 24 on Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia were discussed:
- What do these recommendations mean for the future of the EU, the Eastern Partnership (EaP), and enlargement policies?
- How will they affect Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine and what actual steps will be taken next in these applicant countries?
- What will the spillover effects on the region be?
- Will new synergies be created between EaP countries and the Western Balkans?
- What are the implications for Armenia and Azerbaijan?
- How will relations between the EU and Belarus develop?
In the first part of the workshop, DG NEAR and EEAS gave an update that focused on the consequences of the Council’s conclusions and their implications for the EU, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. In the second part, reflections were shared from the capitals of the countries of the Eastern Partnership.
- June 2022: Consultations
Consultations were held in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, and with EU institutions in Brussels.
- May 2022: Workshop on the Impact of Russia’s War in Ukraine
Participants discussed how Russia’s war against Ukraine has changed not only the architecture of Europe’s security order but also directly impacted the EU’s neighborhood and enlargement policy.
- Nov. 2021: Workshop on Green Transformation
On November 25, 2021, the network held a workshop on the green transformation in EaP countries informed by the following:
- Input paper by Michael Emerson (CEPS): Strategic Implications of the Green Deal for the Eastern Partnership
- Input paper by Mykhailo Gonchar, Oksana Ishchuk, Igor Stukalenko, and Andrii Chubyk (Centre for Global Studies Strategy XXI): Promoting Environmental Sustainability in the EaP Countries in the Context of the European Green Deal
- Input paper by Sofia Strive (ForumCiv): Where Is the EU Heading with the EaP and What Does the JSWD Tell Us?
- Input paper by Vano Chkhikvadze (Open Society Georgia Foundation): The EU’s Vision for the Eastern Partnership: More Money, Less Political Ambition
- Input paper by Katsiaryna Shmatsina (Wilson Center): The Eastern Partnership Is as Strong as Its Weakest Link: The Case of Belarus
- Sept. 2021: Bled Strategic Forum
Organizers of the network attended high-level panels and met contacts at the Bled Strategic Forum 2021.
- June 2021: Workshop on the Rule of Law in EaP Countries
The network’s second workshop discussed the rule of law in the partner countries, informed by the paper below, as well as the geopolitical challenges for the EaP in light of the upcoming EaP Summit.
- Input paper by Pavel Havlicek (Association for International Affairs): The Rule of Law in the Eastern Partnership
- Dec. 2020: “The Future of the EU’s Eastern Partnership”
This event brought together key policy-makers and think tankers to discuss current challenges, opportunities, and ways forward for the EaP. It consisted of three separate parts. The main one was a high-level panel discussion with policy-makers and senior experts on the broader expectations for the December summit. It was followed by two spotlight sessions, each of which focused on a pressing crisis for the EaP. The first session examined the political situation in Belarus; the second the continued existence of unresolved conflicts in the EU’s eastern neighborhood.
See a recording here.
- Nov. 2020: Workshop on Challenges and Crises in the EaP
In November 2020, the network’s first two-part workshop discussed the various crises facing the EaP and how to ensure that the new EaP objectives would be fit for the future. Each session was guided by an input paper, which can be found below. Participants also brainstormed the expectations, objectives, and activities for the network itself.
- Input paper by Dr. Cristina Gherasimov (DGAP): Reshaped Geopolitics and Increased Turmoil in the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood in 2020
- Input paper by Nicu Popescu (ECFR) and Iulian Groza (IPRE): The Eastern Partnership Beyond 2020: Making the New Deliverables Fit for the Future
- Sept. 2020: Launch of the Network
The network was formally launched on September 30, 2020, with the high-level think tank event “EU’s Eastern Partnership in Times of Upheaval and New Configurations in the Neighborhood.”
See an agenda and recording here.
Participating Think Tanks
The Think Tank Network on the Eastern Partnership currently connects more than 90 think tank members.
|Please note: For the purpose of this network, think tanks are defined as public policy research, analysis, and engagement organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues. Think tanks enable policy-makers and the public to make informed decisions about public policy issues and often bridge academic and policy-making communities, serving the public interest as an independent voice that translates applied and basic research into a language and form that is understandable, reliable, and accessible for policy-makers and the public. The outputs of these organizations include books, reports, policy briefs, blogs, conferences, seminars, and commentary, as well as formal briefings and informal discussions with policy-makers and other key stakeholders.|
Think tanks from the EU, the Eastern neighborhood, and other European countries are invited to join on a rolling basis.
Please note that participation in the network’s activities is not open to academics who do not have a think tank affiliation or to organizations that are fully funded by their governments.
If you would like to join the network, please get in touch with Anastasia Pociumban at DGAP.