Europe’s eastern neighbourhood is going through turbulent times. Turkey and Russia have both been rocked by street protests against populist regimes in recent years. Whilst these have faded away, the underlying issues – fraudulent elections, rampant human rights abuses and corruption – will continue to fester. Furthermore, both countries are major players in their own troubled neighbourhoods, specifically the Middle East and Eastern Partnership countries. This shifting balance of power eastwards has huge implications for the EU’s own policy in the region, as the recent Syria crisis has shown.
Eastern Partnership countries continue to struggle to find their way between competing European and Russian narratives. Whilst the magnetism of the EU model waxes and wanes, the region also has to contend with an increasingly bold show of Russian economic ambition. As a backdrop, the frozen conflicts of the region carry on in a state of stagnation where mediators have long since run out of ideas.
To remain relevant in the region, the European Union needs a coherent and consistent strategy to promote its interests and values together with the political will to follow this through. ECFR’s Wider Europe programme was launched in 2007 with the aim of fostering this process.
The programme’s first agenda-setting report – “A Power Audit of EU-Russia Relations” (2007) – prompted a pan-European review of the EU’s relations with Moscow. This was followed up with publications including “What Does Turkey Think?” and “Dealing with a Post BRIC Russia“ (both 2011). More recently, we conducted policy research for “Georgia’s bumpy transition: how the EU can help” and “Regime Change in Russia” (both 2013) making specific recommendations on how the EU should assess and address the profound changes underway in these two countries.
The programme also contributes to more general ECFR publications, such as the ECFR Foreign Policy Scorecard – an annual assessment of Europe’s performance on the world stage.
The programme is recognized for its multilingual policy expertise, leading in-country research and pan-European outreach. Our events, publications and regular blogs and podcasts are influential at the highest levels in EU circles, national governments and the media.