Public Webinar ‘Towards Open Access Orders in Eastern Europe’

Some of our research from the EU-STRAT project will be published in the journal East European Politics very soon! Most of the articles are already available online.

On this occasion, East European Politics is organizing an online public event- webinar – to present and discuss the themes of the special issue. Below is some additional information and the preliminary program.

Attendance is free, and you can register via this link. See you on March 12!


Webinar on the East European Politics Special Issue ‘Towards Open Access Social Orders in Eastern Europe’

About this Event

The upcoming Special Issue of East European Politics (to be published in March) investigates the interplay between domestic socio-political orders and changing external influences of the EU, Russia, Turkey and other external actors in Eastern Europe. In this online webinar, contributors to the special issue, together with guest editors Antoaneta Dimitrova (Leiden University), Tanja Börzel (Free University Berlin) and Dimiter Toshkov (Leiden University) reflect on their findings in the light of continuing turmoil in Eastern Europe. The discussion is followed by an open Q&A.


15:00-15:30 (GMT)

Introducing the key themes

Antoaneta Dimitrova: Analyzing the Eastern neighbourhood with the help of theory: what can we add to North, Wallis and Weingast’s framework for understanding open and limited social orders?

Dimiter Toshkov: Political dynamics in the region and our findings on the interactions of domestic and external actors: the paradox of external actors’ weakness

Tanja A. Börzel: The issue’s findings in the light of the shift in the EU’s approach to the neighbourhood from democratization to resilience

15:30-16:30 (GMT)

Understanding a turbulent region: Some key findings and current developments

Tatsiana Chulitskaya/Inna Ramasheuskaya/ Natallia Rabava: State capacity in Belarus: looking on our findings in the light of pro-democracy protests

Honorata Mazepus: Actors that link to Russia and the EU: contextualizing the findings

Julia Langbein: The effects of trade and the association agreement

Ole Frahm: The rising power of Turkey and the findings on the role of business entrepreneurs

Questions and discussion


New open access publications

We are happy to announce that, in the last year, research findings and analyses from EU-STRAT have found their way in academic journals and books. Among others, our research and analyses have been published in Governance (Ademmer et al), East European Politics (Vilpisauskas et alFrahm and Hofmann, Langbein et al,Dimitrova et al) and East European Politics, Societies and Cultures (Mazepus et al). A special issue in East European Politics in being finalized and a volume with Edward Elgar is being prepared for publication. You can find all of these publications in open access!

New policy brief discussing the potential for EU-Turkey cooperation in the Eastern Partnership is out!

Title: Let’s stay friends! The potential for EU-Turkey cooperation in the Eastern Partnership area 

Authors: Ole Frahm and Katharina Hoffmann

September 2019


In times of increasing conflict, the European Union (EU) and Turkey should continue at least a minimum of cooperation by shifting the focus to novel areas that are not as politically charged. An area with potential for cooperation is the Eastern Partnership, which holds an important if not primary position in both Turkey’s and the EU’s foreign relations. Given the limited success of the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy, cooperation with an established regional actor like Turkey is especially attractive. Economic, cultural, historical and migration ties deeply connect Turkey with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Turkish actors also enjoy greater credibility than the EU due to their longstanding presence in the region and Turkey’s own very recent experience as an emerging economy. Co-operation should strongly involve non-state actors from Turkey, especially businesspersons. This would both enhance the connections to pro-European factions in Turkey and benefit the Eastern Partnership countries.


Catch up on EU-STRAT in our final newsletter!

Our seventh (and final) EU-STRAT newsletter is ready!

Curious about what will you find inside?

Let’s see what project coordinators – Tanja A. Börzel and Antoaneta Dimitrova – wrote about this issue in the editorial:

(or… click here to download it now right away!)

Dear friends and colleagues,

After three years, our research project came to a close on 30 April 2019. Through numerous publications and events, we succeeded in our main ambition of providing an inside-out analysis and strategic assessment of the links between the European Union (EU) and Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. Perhaps more importantly, we built connections across Eastern and Western Europe through challenging but exciting collaborative work. Our partners were based in the Netherlands, Moldova, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and Switzerland. The research allowed us to do study trips to growing players in the neighbourhood, such as Turkey and China, and gave us the opportunity to gather in Berlin, Vilnius, Amsterdam, the Hague, Chișinău, Florence, Kyiv, and Minsk, to name a few! All in all, we were fortunate enough to expand our horizons and networks over these three years.

The research in our project was framed by two main questions: First, why has the EU fallen short of creating peace, prosperity and stability in its Eastern neighbourhood? And second, what can be done to strengthen the EU’s transformative power in supporting political and economic change in the six EaP countries? We present a new perspective on transition in the post-Soviet region and the role that the EU plays in this through six areas of research, the key findings of which are shared in this newsletter.

On 11-12 April, Leiden University hosted our Final Conference in the Hague. Over two days, we welcomed EU-STRAT partners as well as external speakers from the European Commission, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Centre for European Policy Studies, amongst others. After a keynote speech from Peter Wagner of the Commission’s Support Group for Ukraine, we dove into six panels on EU-STRAT’s recent research and a roundtable on the future of EU-EaP cooperation.

This newsletter provides an overview of the topics that were covered at the conference, which ranged from how interdependencies affect regime stability to the EU’s strategies for engagement in the region. Another article in this newsletter reports on a policy briefing that was hosted earlier this year by our partner institute in Minsk, the School of Young Managers in Public Administration (SYMPA). This briefing focused on comparing state capacity in Belarus and Ukraine.

Lastly, our final policy comment sheds light on the recent roller coaster of developments in Moldova. It looks at the role of the EU, United States, and Russia in bringing an unusual coalition to power and examines the road ahead. How sustainable is the new coalition and what are the implications of this for reform? Freshly returned from a study trip to Moldova, Kamil Całus (Centre for Eastern Studies) shares his views.

Over the last three years, we published 19 working papers, 8 policy briefs, and a range of reports, videos, and policy comments. While our project may have officially ended, it has fostered a wealth of findings to build on in the future, not to mention forthcoming publications. We have more policy briefs and working papers on the way, with an upcoming journal Special Issue in East European Politics.

Please enjoy this final edition and thanks for your support throughout our project. We hope to keep the dialogue going for years to come.

Release of working paper studying state capacity & state capture influence on the implementation of Association Agreements in the EaP

Title: State Capacity, State Capture and their Effects on the Implementation of Association Agreements in the Eastern Neighbourhood

Authors: Laure Delcour, Antoaneta Dimitrova, Klaudijus Maniokas, and Kataryna Wolczuk


The Association Agreements signed with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine envisage the creation of independent regulatory bodies in a number of sectors, with a view to creating a level playing field. These bodies, if functioning well, should limit the ability of rent-seeking elites (linked via political-business networks) to use political power to extract rents. This paper examines the relationship between capture of the state by rent-seeking elites (state capture) and capacity building for the implementation of Association Agreements. Empirically, it traces the establishment and functioning of the energy regulatory bodies required by the European Union’s acquis in the three associated countries. We find a differential pattern which corresponds to different levels in state capture, but also to different dynamics over time. While Ukraine has suffered the most from state capture and the effects of transfers of public assets to private wealth have been dramatic, especially in the energy sector, Georgia has not seen such effects. In Moldova, regulatory independence is recently more under pressure than it has been in the past. Overall, while all three countries have set up regulatory bodies as requested by the European Union, in practice the work of the regulator (especially in Moldova and Ukraine) continues to be undermined by political interference, selective application of legislation, and a lack of transparency. Energy regulators thereby remain susceptible to the influence of powerful interests. Therefore, we argue that without fundamental changes in the relationship between dominant elites and the political system, the creation of specific sectoral bodies is insufficient to ensure a level playing field.

EU-STRAT Final Conference

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The EU-STRAT Final Conference took place in The Hague on 11-12 April 2019. The conference was the final major event of the three-year Horizon 2020 international research project and provided an opportunity to present the project’s inside-out analysis and strategic assessment of the links between the European Union (EU) and Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. The two-day conference started with an opening keynote speech and continued with six panels presenting findings and discussions on the different topics addressed by EU-STRAT, as well as a final roundtable looking to the future. This report provides a summary of the presentations and discussions that took place during these sessions.


The conference opened with a keynote speech by Peter Wagner, Head of the Support Group for Ukraine (SGUA) at the European Commission. Peter Wagner noted that the broad scope of the Association Agreement, while providing ample opportunities for the country, also presented significant challenges to implementing the reforms. In this way, it could be compared to selling the construction kit for a Ferrari to someone who does not have all the tools to build it and the infrastructure to use it, and while there is a neighbour that is doing all it can to prevent it from being built. Despite all these challenges, the EU has promoted major reforms by supporting the efforts of reform-oriented members in the Ukrainian government.

Regarding the necessary profound reform of the public sector, support from the beginning has included the involvement of senior experts from EU member states who have undertaken similar reforms during the transition from communism. The broad EU support includes a budget support programme, which contributes partially to the additional fiscal space the government requires to implement the administrative reforms, including increases in salaries. With newly created and better paid positions to implement reforms, filled via new, transparent recruitment procedures and computer-based testing, a new era in Ukrainian civil service has started, according to Peter Wagner.

The Reform Delivery Office working with the Prime Minister’s Office and Reform Support Teams embedded in Ukrainian ministries are providing the necessary guidance and implementation capacity to the government at the central level. In addition, high-level advice is provided by the Strategic Advisory Group of Support for Ukrainian Reforms. More broadly, 22 regional offices are supporting decentralization working with and helping local authorities in the context of the EU project.

Wagner concluded that reforms in Ukraine might not yet have reached the point of irreversibility – but with sufficient time, continued political will from Ukraine and international support, he believes things will work out. Coordination with international partners, such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank is crucial in this process. However, when it comes to public administration reform, the SGUA is very much leading the way and the EU is the most important partner of Ukraine in reform. Peter Wagner proposed that finding innovative approaches where possible in applying some of the existing reform instruments and attracting the best national talents is the key to success for achieving the ambitious objective of substantial and comprehensive change in Ukraine. He further concluded that the EU is ready to stand by its partner countries in their ongoing reform efforts, noting that sustained and effective reform progress is key to the continued success of the EaP.

After the keynote speech, the time has come for discussion panels lasting for the next two days. The conference culminated with a roundtable on the future possibilities for the EU and EaP.

Would you like to learn more?

To find out more about the course of the other discussion panels and the round table, please read our REPORT (PDF).

Доклад EU-STRAT посвящен влиянию программ научного сотрудничества ЕС на страны Восточного партнерства доступен на русском языке!

Рабочий доклад /  Август 2017

Рабочий доклад EU-STRAT № 5 (2017): Влияние программ научного сотрудничества ЕС на страны Восточного партнерства: научный результат и влияние на общество

Авторы: Гонората Мазепус, Димитер Тошков, Татьяна Чулицкая и Инна Ромашевская


Научное сотрудничество между Европейским Союзом (ЕС) и его восточными соседями существенно выросло с начала 2000-ных годов. Это сотрудничество имеет серьезный потенциал влияния не только на секторы науки и инноваций, но и на практики и ценности научного сообщества, научную политику и общество в целом в странах Восточного партнерства (ВП). В данной работе мы ставим целью оценить влияние научного сотрудничества с ЕС, фокусируясь на трех странах Восточного партнерства: Беларуси, Молдове и Украине. Наш анализ состоит из двух частей: во-первых, мы рассматриваем научное влияние и проводим библиометрический анализ, который содержит некоторые важные индикаторы научных результатов в Беларуси, Молдове и Украине в 2000 – 2016 годах; во-вторых, мы анализируем более широкое его влияние на научное сообщество, институты и общество при помощи новых данных, полученных из интервью с экспертами. В разрезе научных результатов мы приходим к выводу, что, хотя ЕС и не трансформировал радикально науку в странах ВП, он, скорее всего, предоставил ей существенную поддержку для выживания. Мы также предоставляем четкое доказательство позитивного влияния сотрудничества с ЕС на участвующие институции (institutions) из стран ВП, и недостаток доказательств для того, чтобы говорить о его воздействии на публичную политику либо о существенном влиянии на общество в целом.

New policy brief on varieties of Limited Access Orders in the Eastern Partnership is out!

Title:Varieties of Limited Access Orders in the Eastern Partnership countries: Implications for EU engagement

Authors: Julia Langbein and Esther Ademmer

May 2019


Ten years ago, the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was launched as the Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. It aims at promoting political and economic reforms that would bring the six EaP countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, closer to EU norms and standards. As of today, developments in the EaP countries reveal mixed trends: some countries, such as Armenia and Ukraine, have indeed witnessed instances of political and economic reform resulting in increased competition in both spheres and which could eventually pave the way towards democracy and prosperity. Notwithstanding, all six countries continue to operate as hybrid regimes combining elements of democracy and autocracy, albeit to different degrees. Moreover, in all EaP countries, sustainable and inclusive economic growth is hampered by clientelistic rent-seeking elites who restrict economic competition and the emergence of market-enhancing institutions.

Our research project EU-STRAT set out to examine what room for action there is for the EU to promote political and economic opening in the six EaP countries and what strategies could be (in)effective to achieve this goal. In so doing, we placed the analysis of domestic conditions at the centre of our analysis. EU-STRAT is premised on the idea that deep knowledge of the dynamics of social orders, with specific attention to differences in how dominant elites restrict access to political and economic resources, is fundamental to make an informed assessment of whether and how the EU can help to bring about political and economic opening in the various EaP countries.

To this end, EU-STRAT broadly understands the six EaP countries as Limited Access Orders (LAOs) where the ruling elite restricts access to economic and political resources for private gains. This is in contrast to Open Access Orders (OAOs) based on economic and political competition. EU-STRAT’s research shows that the six EaP countries vary in how incumbents undermine a level playing field by restricting or opening access to political and economic resources. Some allow for relatively balanced forms of access to political and economic resources, while in others, this access is unbalanced, allowing either for more access to political resources than to economic resources or posing fewer limits on accessing economic resources than on political ones. This research has also shown that the various types of LAOs are associated with distinct operating logics underlying hybrid (in)stability that helped us form expectations about what kind of change is relevant for moving them towards more openness or closure. In this policy brief, we recap these insights and combine them with further insights from research under EU-STRAT in order to derive specific policy recommendations for the EU’s current engagement with various EaP countries.

EU-STRAT at 10th Anniversary Eastern Partnership conference in Brussels

EU-STRAT colleagues from the Centre for Eastern Studies (Warsaw), School of Young Managers in Public Administration (Minsk), Freie Universität Berlin, IDIS Viitorul (Chișinău), and the University of Birmingham gathered in Brussels on Tuesday for the 10th Anniversary Eastern Partnership conference, organized by the European Commission. Discussions centred on achievements and challenges in delivering concrete results to citizens as well as looking forward at the future of the Eastern Partnership.

Рабочий доклад EU-STRAT № 9 теперь на русском языке!

Рабочий доклад / Апрель 2018

Это исследование направлено на изучение того, какие факторы могут повлиять на предпочтения граждан относительно более тесного сотрудничества с ЕС или Россией в трех странах, которые являются восточными соседями стран Европейского Союза: Беларуси, Молдове и Украине.

Рабочий доклад EU-STRAT № 9 (2018): Какого рода послания могут усилить поддержку гражданами более тесного сотрудничества с Европейским Союзом?

Авторы: Димитер Тошков, Гонората Мазепус и Антоанета Димитрова


Это исследование направлено на изучение того, какие факторы могут повлиять на предпочтения граждан относительно более тесного сотрудничества с ЕС или Россией в трех странах, которые являются восточными соседями стран Европейского Союза: Беларуси, Молдове и Украине. Жители этих трех стран являются адресатами конкурирующих нарративов и политических установок о целях и результатах более тесного сотрудничества, источником которых являются ЕС и Россия. Вначале мы разовьём теоретические идеи об их возможном влиянии на общественные установки по поводу международного сотрудничества. Затем мы эмпирически исследуем эти идеи, используя опросный эксперимент, в котором шесть разных фреймов относительно международного сотрудничества закреплены в шести коротких описаниях («виньетках»). В них привлекается внимание к таким темам, как экономика, безопасность, ценности и идентичность, которые были разработаны на основании предыдущих исследований факторов, влияющих на международное сотрудничество. Этот эксперимент был реализован среди разнообразной и достаточно большой выборки граждан в трёх странах. Наш главный вывод заключается в том, что тематически нейтральные рамки международного сотрудничества обладают лишь очень ограниченным потенциалом прямого влияния на общественную поддержку сотрудничества с ЕС. В то же время, они в большей степени способны влиять на представления людей о результатах сотрудничества с тем или партнёром в том, что касается желаемых результатов, таких, как экономические преимущества, безопасность или хорошее управление. Эти представления позволяют с большой точностью предсказать индивидуальные предпочтения в выборе партнеров для международного сотрудничества. Дополняя результаты экспериментального исследования, мы также представляем анализ взаимоотношений между предпочитаемым медиа-источником новостных сообщений у участников эксперимента, и их предпочтениями в выборе партнера для международного сотрудничества. Далее, мы исследуем корреляты поддержки сотрудничества с ЕС с акцентом на потенциальную важность использования СМИ. Мы обнаружили, что среди лиц, использующих различные источники для получения новостей, которым они доверяют, не наблюдается значимых различий в уровне поддержки ЕС, исключая, возможно, Беларусь.