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

Languages

English, Russian, French, Romanian

Biography

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 areas of focus include how the EU should adapt itself and its policies in light of the war in Ukraine, including the development of a ‘war economy’, as well as EU enlargement to the east and Europe’s relations with Russia.

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.

Three scenarios for Ukraine

Following events in Crimea, three worrying scenarios are conveivable, including a future with more military interventions. To minismise the chance of this happening, Russia's actions have to be met more than just diplomatic signals

Time for Azerbaijan to open up

Azerbaijan has hydrocarbon riches and a strategic position, which means that all the great powers have an interest in good relations. But one family has dominated the political scene for many years, corruption is rampant and the economy needs diversifying. It’s time to open up.  

Power and Weakness in Putin’s Russia

Vladimir Putin’s support machine was strong enough to guarantee him victory in the presidential election. But Putin’s strength is the weakness of the opposition and he should be worried by the divisions within his own government.  

How Putin ran out of ideas and won

Russia has changed and Vladimir Putin has run out of ideas. Although he will still win the Russian presidential election, Putin faces the biggest ever challenge to his power once he re-enters the Kremlin.  

Russia’s liberal-nationalist cocktail: elixir of life or toxic poison?

Young, liberal figures such as Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Milov are building bridges between democratic and nationalist wings of the protest movement. Will this marriage prove a mix that mobilises a nation against the Putin regime, or will it taint the legitimacy of both sides in years to come?   

Publications

Articles

A digital agenda for the Eastern Partnership

By reforming the Eastern Partnership, the EU can capitalise on the huge opportunities for economic and social development created by digitalisation

How Russia and the West try to weaken each other

The West and Russia are both worse off for their efforts to try to weaken each other. This competition will only end when one side feels it is losing the race

Podcasts

Events

In the media