Wider Europe


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fundamentally altered the European security landscape and forced policymakers to rethink their approach to Russia and the Wider Europe region. As long as the war continues, sustaining support for Ukraine must remain the European Union’s top priority, alongside preparing for Ukraine’s accession, and assisting its post war recovery and reconstruction efforts. In addition, Europeans need to closely follow developments in Russia’s political, economic, and foreign policy spheres, and adapt their Russia policies accordingly.

The war has also given a new sense of urgency to the debates around EU enlargement as a geopolitical objective. Among the six Eastern Partnership countries, the EU has granted Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia candidate status in 2022 and 2023. In the Western Balkans, discussions on how to revive the enlargement process and counteract Russian influence have reignited. Overall, the EU must ascertain how to use enlargement as a tool to promote democracy and strengthen security and defence across Wider Europe.

Beyond the impact of the Ukraine war, the south Caucasus and Western Balkans are also contending with increasing instability following the reignition of conflicts in Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh. Domestic challenges such as corruption and polarisation are exacerbating the situation.

To be an effective actor in the region, the EU needs a coherent and consistent strategy to respond to these challenges and defend its interests and values. ECFR’s Wider Europe programme was launched in 2007 with the aim of fostering this process.

The Wider Europe programme’s experts produce focused research and analysis on the dynamics in the region and the programme regularly convenes leading experts and policymakers for meaningful dialogue on EU policy in the region.

Over the course of the programme’s existence, we have provided in-depth insight into the dynamics of the EU’s relationship with Russia and other Eastern neighbours such as Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. Regarding the Western Balkans, the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been another focal point. More recently, we have also produced detailed analyses of Europe’s engagement with Ukraine, including publications on how Europe can support Ukraine during the war against Russia and help it thrive in the aftermath.