EU-STRAT Final Conference (11-12 April 2019). Save the date!

Dear EU-STRAT supporters,

we would like to announce that our Final Conference will be taking place on 11-12 April 2019.

It will be held on the premises of Leiden University in the Wijnhaven Building, Turfmarkt 99 2511 DP, in The Hague.

More details about the panels and discussions planned are soon to follow!


New policy comment on recent developments in Armenia!

Policy comment / October 2018

Armenia’s ‘Velvet Revolution’: Whither Change?

by Laure Delcour & Katharina Hoffmann

“In spring 2018, the installation of former President Serzh Sargsyan as prime minister – a scenario which would have enabled the incumbent elite to maintain their grip over Armenia – unexpectedly failed to materialise. The 2015 constitutional referendum that transferred key powers to the prime minister as of spring 2018 paved the way for this swap scenario. Instead, on April 23rd, the newly appointed Prime Minister (and former President) Serzh Sargsyan resigned amidst a wave of protests that swept the country. This outcome to the demonstrations took many observers by surprise.

Admittedly, over the past decade, Armenia has been home to frequent protests against the ruling elite. In 2008, the flawed presidential elections that brought Serzh Sargsyan to power were followed by a brutal crackdown on protesters, killing at least ten people. None of the prior protests led to changes as substantial as the ones Armenia has experienced since spring 2018, though. In light of the authorities’ record of excessive use of force, there was little reason to believe that the 2018 protests would not end up with a brutal crackdown, thereby perpetuating the rule of the incumbent elite through a constitutional change. The scenario made possible by the constitutional amendments was also likely to materialise given its success in other post-Soviet countries, primarily Russia (Armenia’s strategic partner). Yet contrary to all expectations, the founder of the Civil Contract party and leader of the demonstrations, Nikol Pashinyan, was elected prime minister in early May 2018, raising considerable expectations among the Armenian population. ”

Policy brief on EU’s soft power in the Eastern Neighbourhood is out!

EU-STRAT Policy Brief No. 3 analyses how the EU communicates via official channels, what messages and news about the EU are disseminated by media in the Eastern neighbourhood countries (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) and finally how these messages are received by citizens. In addition, authors compares the EU’s communication strategy to that of other actors present in the region, especially Russia, and its tools and communicative strategies.

Policy Brief No.3 (2018): Getting the message across: How can the EU bolster its soft power in the Eastern Neighbourhood?

Honorata Mazepus, Antoaneta Dimitrova, Dimiter Toshkov, Tatsiana Chulitskaya and Matthew Frear

Click on the Policy Brief title above or on the image to download EU-STRAT Policy Brief No.3

New policy brief on external actors in the Eastern neighbourhood

EU-STRAT Policy Brief No. 2 shares the results of analysis on the strategies of the EU and other external actors towards the EaP region, which can be either competing or complementary. Recommendations are made for how the EU can engage with these actors (Russia, China, NATO, the U.S., international finance institutions, EU member states) across the fields of trade, energy, security and migration, to ensure greater coherence and positive impact.

Policy Brief No.2 (2018): The EU and other external actors in the Eastern neighbourhood: Maximizing the transformative impact

Marta Jaroszewicz, Tadeusz Iwański, Kamil Całus, Dovilė Jakniūnaitė, Laurynas Jonavičius, Margarita Šešelgytė, Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, and Elyssa Shea

Click on the Policy Brief title above or on the image to download EU-STRAT Policy Brief No.2


Looking back at EU-STRAT’s Midterm Conference in Vilnius

A year on, we look back at our Midterm Conference, which took place from 5-6 October 2017 at Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Science. Enjoy conference snippets and highlights in this short video!

If you would like to know more about the conference and read about the keypoints of all the discussions which took place during the event please take a look at the report summarizing the EU-STRAT’s midterm conference and its findings.

Workshop in Bucharest: The Present and Future of Secessionists Conflicts

On 7 July, the Center for Governance and Culture in Europe at the University of St Gallen together with the Leibniz Institute for East and South East European Studies Regensburg organized a one-day workshop on the future of secessionist conflicts in the wider Black Sea region. The event was held in Bucharest at the New Europe College and brought together mostly young researchers from Germany, Switzerland, Georgia, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Czechia, Russia, Azerbaijan and Moldova. In three sessions, participants sought to establish the state of the art in the field of research on secessionist conflicts and – inspired by the University of St Gallen’s research as part of EU-STRAT’s work package 3 – to deliberate on the interdependencies of different secessionist conflicts.

Panel I explored the issue of commonalities and differences between protracted conflicts by focusing on the cases of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea and Republika Srpska. For one, it touched upon the philosophical question of under which circumstances secession can be justified and whether in the wake of Putin’s justification for annexing Crimea secession may become regularized rather than remain reserved only to extremely oppressed peoples. The argument was made that the Russian foreign policy elite’s approaches to separatist statelets changed not in 2014 but in 2008 following the war in Georgia and Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Moreover, it was emphasized how important not only the ethnic imaginary but also an idealized memory of the Socialist social order was for secessionism and how detrimental intrusive policies by the EU could be – for instance in Bosnia-Herzegovina – for the growth of a culture of democratic accountability.

The second panel concentrated on interdependencies between protracted conflicts in the post-Soviet space and delved into the particularities of relations between Russia and Transnistria as well as the economic cost of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. There are some forms of institutionalized exchange between the ‘post-Soviet four’ but the lack of further cooperation is not only due to the preference for other relations (e.g. to Russia) but to different ambitions among local elites and some level of competition over international recognition. Whereas in general the level of the client states’ leeway towards the patron is proportional to the severity of the security threat, for the post-Soviet space the global financial crisis marked a turning point as fiscal dependence on Russian aid reduced agency substantially. The militarization and brinkmanship of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict meanwhile not only imposes high economic costs on states and communities but also negatively effects education, services, corruption and democracy.

In the third panel on the role of international actors, presentations dealt with the international community’s stabilization dilemma and with the contentious part played by international organizations in shaping dialogue and confidence-building measures in Ukraine and Moldova. As unilaterally seceding entities can subsist even without international recognition, the international community faces the insoluble dilemma that efforts to stabilize the situation on the ground, for example through development work, run counter to efforts to stabilize the international state system. In the case of Ukraine, efforts by the EU and OSCE to foster track 2 and track 3 forms of dialogue in a process of orchestration were hampered by very different understandings among Ukrainian stakeholders of what actually constituted dialogue. Similarly, different agendas among donors and the Moldovan government have created downsides for civilian confidence-building measures regarding relations between Transnistria and the right-bank.

The panels were followed by a collective brainstorming session to develop new avenues for the future of this research field and to sow the seeds for collaborative research projects. One strand of argument arose over the need to provincialize the post-Soviet space and to engage more directly with research on secessionist conflicts in other world regions such as Africa as well as with more theoretical approaches from the field of conflict studies and international relations theory. Overall, the workshop benefitted from a very open and collegial atmosphere and there was a general sense that it would lead to further get-togethers in the near future.

You can find the full workshop programme here:


Release of Working Paper No. 12 on state capacity

Working paper / August 2018

EU-STRAT’s twelfth working paper is out. Click on the paper title below to download PDF.

Working Paper No.12 (2018): Statehood, State Capacity and Limited Access Orders: Comparing Belarus and Ukraine

Antoaneta Dimitrova, Dimiter Toshkov, Honorata Mazepus, Klaudijus Maniokas, Maxim Boroda, Tatsiana Chulitskaya, Oleg Grytsenko, Natallia Rabava, Ina Ramasheuskaya, and Kataryna Wolczuk


This paper discusses the role of statehood and limited statehood in relation to societal orders in Belarus and Ukraine. We conceptualize state capacity as a crucial factor affecting open and closed access orders and define its key elements. We investigate specifically public service provision by state and non-state actors, while recognizing that security and control over territory are other important aspects of statehood which are problematic in Ukraine. Our empirical investigation of key public services covers, on the one hand, elements affecting public service provision such as public administration reform and independence, and on the other hand, the actual state of basic services. We find that healthcare, postal services and public transport are better developed in Belarus than in Ukraine. This reliable provision of public services likely contributes to the stability of the limited access order in Belarus. At the same time, politicization of the Belarusian public administration and authoritarian centralization of government institutions affect other public services and continue to represent a threat to the economy in Belarus. Ukraine, in contrast, while struggling to deliver some public goods and services, is taking important steps in public administration reform. This could result in creating a more professional and independent public administration in Ukraine and, in the long-term, an opening of access to public services on a more universal basis.



Fifth EU-STRAT newsletter is available!

We are pleased to share with you the fifth newsletter of the EU-STRAT project.

Over the last months, we published another four working papers, two reports, and a policy comment, with a policy brief to follow later this month. To catch up on anything you might have missed, check out our website and most recent publications.

Besides a look at some of our latest working papers, this newsletter shares the discussions from our recent policy briefing in Chișinău, as well as an interview with Dumitru Alaiba, Program Director at CPR Moldova, on the critical role of civil society in Moldova.

We hope you enjoy this edition!

Click here to download our newest Newsletter

Release of EU-STRAT Report No. 5

Our latest report provides an inside-out perspective on EU engagement beyond or in the absence of Association Agreements.

The report sheds light on how the ‘20 Deliverables for 2020’ were perceived in Moldova and Belarus, as well as how the EU could potentially engage with various actors in these societies in order to make progress. Ultimately, as stated in the report, the EU needs to understand the circumstances on the ground in both countries in order to employ any conditionality effectively.

Insights shared here were partially fuelled by a brainstorming session held in Minsk in March 2018, organized by our colleagues at SYMPA.

Click here to download EU-STRAT Report No. 5

EU-STRAT Workshop “Diverging Lines: Dialogue and Cooperation in Research on the Eastern Black Sea region”

On 8 June 2018, a EU-STRAT workshop organised by the University of St. Gallen and a Turkish partner, the Bogazici University, took place in Istanbul.

About 15 participants from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey as well as Norway and Switzerland came together to share their view on diverging lines in research on the Eastern part of the Black Sea region, which includes Turkey alongside the above mentioned post-Soviet states. The endeavour was part of EU-STRAT´s engagement with the question of how scientific cooperation may bring European and local actors closer.

This EU-STRAT workshop reflected on persisting diverging lines in research approaches, concepts and in the assessment of results. The workshop participants discussed critically how international funding schemes influence the research topics, privilege experienced partners, are sometimes vulnerable to political tensions between partners, but are nevertheless important resources to increase knowledge and mutual understanding of developments in the countries of interest.