Experts & Staff

Nicu Popescu

Distinguished policy fellow

Areas of expertise

Russian domestic and foreign policies. Eastern Partnership countries and their relations with the EU, post-Soviet conflicts, cybersecurity


English, Russian, French, Romanian


Nicu Popescu is a distinguished policy fellow of the European Power programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, based in the Paris office. His topics of focus include the European Union’s relations with Russia and the Eastern Partnership countries.

Popescu served as Moldova’s deputy prime-minister and minister for foreign affairs and European integration between August 2021 and January 2024, and foreign minister between June and November 2019. In his second mandate, he managed the country’s foreign policy in the extremely tense regional environment shaped by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Under the leadership of President Maia Sandu, he steered efforts to build wide-ranging international support for Moldova’s aims to maintain peace and stability. He helped mobilise international attention to Moldova and concrete support for the country’s efforts to overcome the negative consequences of the war in the security, humanitarian, energy, and economic spheres.

As deputy prime minister, he was lead coordinator of the EU accession process. Under his mandate, Moldova applied for EU membership, obtained EU candidate status (2022), and the European Council approved the start of its EU accession talks (2023). In this period Moldova had been widely applauded for its reform record, having most successfully implemented the EU acquis among all candidate countries (2023).

Popescu previously worked as director of the Wider Europe programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations (2011-2012, 2018-2019, and 2020-2021), senior analyst at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris (2013-2018), senior advisor on foreign policy and EU affairs for the prime-minister of Moldova (2010, and 2012-2013), and research fellow at ECFR in London (2007-2009) and at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels (2005-2007).

Popescu has been associate professor at Sciences Po Paris since 2016. He also taught at the University of Barcelona (IELPO). He holds a PhD in International Relations from the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. He has authored and co-edited several books and

over 60 policy papers, book chapters and academic articles, including authoring  EU foreign policy and post-Soviet conflicts: stealth intervention (Routledge 2010), and co-editing  Russia Rising: Putin’s Foreign Policy in the Middle East and North Africa (with Dimitar Bechev and Stanislav Secrieru, I.B. Tauris 2021) and Democratization in EU Foreign Policy (with Benedetta Berti and Kristina Mikulova, Routledge 2015).

He has been decorated by Maia Sandu, President of Moldova, with Moldova’s highest order – The Order of the Republic.

Observing Russia’s elections

Whatever the electoral outcome, Putin wins. But this time, the manner of the Russian strongman?s victory will undermine not only Russian democracy; but the credibility of Europe?s democracy-promotion.

A ?Power Audit? of EU 27-Russia relations

Despite its economic strength and military might, the EU has begun to behave as if it were subordinate to an increasingly assertive Russia. Read ECFR's “Power Audit” of EU-Russia relations.

Guardian: Russia as the new Donald Rumsfeld

Russia has emerged as the most divisive issue in the European Union since Donald Rumsfeld split the European club into ?new’ and ?old’ member states. Read an opinion piece published through Project Syndicate.

In the media