New working paper on the elements of Russia’s soft power

EU-STRAT’s fourth working paper is just out:
you can find it here!

The paper analyzes the elements of Russia’s soft power, and is produced by a team of EU-STRAT scholars from four partner institutions: Antoaneta Dimitrova, Matthew Frear, Honorata Mazepus, Dimiter Toshkov, Maxim Boroda, Tatsiana Chulitskaya, Oleg Grytsenko, Igor Munteanu, Tatiana Parvan, and Ina Ramasheuskaya.

Here is the abstract:

Soft power can be exerted by a variety of actors using different channels and tools. This paper focuses on actors and channels transmitting Russian messages and discourses in the Eastern Partnership countries. It contributes to enhancing our understanding of Russian influences in the region in two ways. First, it maps the network of influential actors who have the potential to transmit Russian messages and target various audiences. Second, it offers a detailed analysis of the coverage of Russia (and the European Union (EU)) in one important channel for dissemination of information about Russia and the EU: popular TV stations in Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. The analysis shows the presence of a wide variety of actors focusing on ‘compatriots’, religious bonds, and Russian-language speakers in the region, which reflects the key ideas of the ‘Russian World’ narrative. These actors promote Russia’s role as a centre of gravity and aim to appeal to Russians, Slavs and Orthodox Christians. This image of Russia, however, does not dominate the news programmes in any of the three countries. In Moldova and Ukraine, Russia is most often mentioned (negatively) in the context of security, while in Belarus it is covered more often than the EU in economy-related news items. Moreover, a large portion of the news about Russia and the EU has no positive or negative tone or is presented in a balanced way. In general, apart from what was conveyed by Russian TV channels, Russia does not have a more positive image than the EU in the news programmes in the countries we monitored.

New Working Paper on Russian foreign policy discourses published

EU-STRAT has just published its third working paper: ‘A New Turn or More of the Same? A Structured Analysis of Recent Developments in Russian Foreign Policy Discourse’. The authors are Matthew Frear and Honorata Mazepus.

The full text is available here and in the Publications/Working papers section of this website.

Here is the abstract:

Russia and the European Union (EU) pursue active policies in their shared neighbourhood. The official Russian foreign policy discourses that we analyse here provide insights into the most important foreign policy ideas that Russia seeks to promote. They show how Russia perceives its role in the region and the world, as well as how it wants to develop its relations with neighbours. Building on previous studies identifying the main discourses in Russian foreign policy, this paper offers a new, comprehensive analysis of recent Foreign Policy Concepts and the annual Presidential Addresses to the Federal Assembly during President Vladimir Putin’s third term. The paper contributes to our understanding of Russian foreign policy discourses and Russia’s stance vis-a-vis the EU in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region. Rather than focusing on a single aspect of foreign policy (a common practice adopted by many existing studies), it provides an analysis of all of them, thereby showing any shift in emphasis on different aspects of foreign policy and regions over time. Moreover, it takes a closer look at the content of the economic pitch within the official Russian discourses to attract the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In this way, rather than focusing on what Russia does not offer (the values and political system of Western countries), it investigates whether the discourses presented contain a potential positive offer for the countries in the region.

EU-STRAT at the EUSA Fifteenth Biennial Conference!

EU-STRAT partners presented ongoing research at the European Union Studies Association Conference in Miami on May 4, 2017. The panel entitled “The European Union’s Approach to its Eastern Neighbors: Introducing an Inside-out Perspective for Analysis”, featured researchers from Freie Universität Berlin and the University of St. Gallen. A paper co-authored by Esther Ademmer, Tanja A. Börzel, and Julia Langbein presented a conceptual framework and a preliminary empirical application on how to grasp varieties of social orders in Eastern Partnership countries. The second paper by Katharina Hoffmann and Dirk Lehmkuhl elaborated on a heuristic for assessing the strategies of external actors and their influence social orders, focusing especially on the case of Turkey. The paper presentations were followed by a vivid and insightful debate with the audience and Wade Jacoby – the discussant to the panel – that provided constructive and inspiring ideas on how to further shape EU-STRAT’s research.


Federica Mogherini on the future of the Eastern Partnership

From May 3-5, 2017, EU-STRAT team member Minna Ålander from Freie Universität Berlin took part in ‘The EU and Global Challenges: 28 Ideas from the Erasmus Generation’, a conference at the University of Florence, Italy. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, visited the conference for a Q&A session. Among other topics, she commented on the future of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative.

Mogherini stated that the EaP initiative will have to be developed to acknowledge the individual needs and contexts of the partner countries more accurately, a so-called ‘tailor-made’ approach to each country. The recent events in Ukraine especially have shown that the partners’ relations with Russia must be taken into consideration when tailoring these individual approaches, as some partners are in outright conflict with Russia, while others maintain close ties. Mogherini emphasised, however, that the main goal of the EaP is to make clear that having good relations with the EU does not exclude partners having good relations with Russia. Furthermore, Mogherini stressed the role of trade agreements as an important tool to enhance the partnerships with EaP countries. She named visa liberalisation with Ukraine as a priority and expressed her satisfaction with the recent successful negotiations of a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Armenia in March 2017. Her statement highlighted the need for rethinking the EaP in the light of current developments, confirming the relevance of EU-STRAT’s research aims.

First policy brief published

EU-STRAT’s first policy brief has been published! You can find it here. The policy brief deals with the EU’s communication with Eastern Partnership countries. These are the main conclusions:

(1) The EU’s communications clearly reflect the different modes of cooperation with the EaP countries. The EU communicates as a transformative power where cooperation with EaP countries is based on AAs and DCFTAs and has therefore a transformational purpose. The EU communicates as a normative power where democracy and human rights are critically at stake, as in the case of Belarus.

(2) The most positive coverage of the EU is on Moldovan TV channels. Russia is, predictably, covered in a more positive light than the EU in Belarusian TV and main news programmes. Coverage in Ukraine, however, is not only (understandably) negative about Russia, but also rather mixed regarding the EU.

(3) EU member states receive substantial attention in EaP countries; demonstrated in that the amount of coverage exceeds even that of Russia. However, this does not mean that the EU’s assistance and policies are well covered or explained.

For background on these conclusions, read the full text of the policy brief.


5 April 2017

The research project EU-STRAT would like to express support for the European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP) from the researchers at ten of its partner institutions: Freie Universitaet Berlin (Germany), Leiden University (Netherlands), Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme (France), Vilnius University (Lithuania), Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy (Ukraine), University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), European Social, Legal and Economics Projects (Lithuania), The School of Young Managers in Public Administration (Belarus), Institute for Development and Social Initiatives ‘Viitorul’ (Moldova), and the University of Birmingham (U.K.).

The revoking of EUSP’s teaching license has deeply troubled the EU-STRAT community, especially considering the university’s role as a pioneer in academic exchange and research over the years. With partners spanning from Western to Eastern Europe, EU-STRAT urges the continuation of EUSP’s work and valuable contribution to the field of social sciences. EUSP plays an integral role as exchange between the peoples and academic communities of Europe and Russia is needed now more than ever, as is the perpetuation of independent research. We therefore urge the Russian Ministry of Education and Science to aid EUSP in resolving the case against them, so as to allow teaching and learning to continue undisturbed.

Sincerely, on behalf of all EU-STRAT partners listed,

Tanja A. Börzel
EU-STRAT Project Coordinator
Freie Universität Berlin

Antoaneta Dimitrova
EU-STRAT Project Co-coordinator
Leiden University

Original Letter (pdf)

Second newsletter published

We just published EU-STRAT’s second newsletter!

You can find in it a policy comment on the future of Moldova after the recent presidential elections (written by Kamil Calus from the Center for Eastern Studies, OSW), as well as reports on EU-STRAT’s policy briefs and other activities.

New working paper on scientific cooperation published

EU-STRAT has just published its second working paper, and first for 2017. The title is ‘Science Policies and International Cooperation in the Eastern Neighbourhood of the European Union: An Overview’ and the authors are Tatsiana Chulitskaya, Honorata Mazepus, Ina Ramasheuskaya and Dimiter Toshkov.

The full text is available here and in the Publications/Working papers section of this website.

Here is the abstract:

Scientific cooperation is an important part of the European Union (EU)’s policy approach towards the countries in its neighbourhood. This has opened up many opportunities for cooperation in the areas of science, technology, research, and innovation between the EU and the Eastern Partnership (EaP)countries. This working paper reviews the institutional and policy parameters of scientific cooperation between the EU and three EaP countries – Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. It provides an overview of the science policies in these countries, focusing on the lasting impact of their shared communist legacies and post-Soviet transitions, as well as on their current strategies, institutions, and ambitions in the domain of science, research and development policy. The paper also reviews the place of scientific cooperation in the EU’s science and external policies, focusing on relations with the neighbourhood and the EaP countries in particular. We also take stock of the existing programmes for scientific and educational cooperation and academic mobility between the EU and EaP countries. We present an inventory of relevant projects, with a discussion of the progress, level of participation of the research communities in the EaP, and other relevant parameters, such as the distribution of projects and participating institutions across broad scientific fields as well as disciplines. Altogether, we find that Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine have registered a considerable degree of participation in the science and research programmes of the EU, but we also identify a number of barriers and structural impediments to a more successful partnership.

Policy briefing ‘The challenges for the EU’s communication strategy in Moldova’

EU-STRAT’s first policy briefing in Moldova was held on 22 November 2016 and was organized by the local partner, IDIS, in Chisinau.

The briefing was broadly attended by local media and journalists, academics, think tank representatives and policy experts from a variety of organizations, as well as representatives of the EU. IDIS Chairman Igor Munteanu presented the objectives and structure of EU-STRAT and discussed the relevance of the main concepts and ideas of the project, such as limited access orders and political economy approaches, for analysing developments in Moldova. Munteanu stressed that the EU’s projected normative power would also have an impact on the EU’s success or failure in its Eastern neighborhood.

Insights on whether the EU communicates as a soft, normative or transformative power were presented by Antoaneta Dimitrova, EU-STRAT team member and co-coordinator (Leiden University). Dimitrova presented the results of a multiple team quantitative analysis of EU official communications as presented on the EU delegations websites  in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. She stressed that there has been quite some differentiation in official communications towards Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine: the EU emphatically addressed Belarus as a normative power and Ukraine and Moldova with an emphasis on reforms, i.e. as a transformative power.

Suzanne Kiefer, Senior Specialist of the EU’s East StratCom Task Force highlighted the changing character of EU communications and the shift from impersonal to personal stories and narratives, from official to social media sites. She presented the example of the new type campaign, ‘Red card to corruption’, involving Moldovan football players and sport personalities, able to reach a broader audience domestically. In the same vein, the presentation by Ruxandra Stanciu, Press and Information Officer of the EU Delegation, discussed the new trend in EU communications. Stanciu stressed that a major goal of the EU Delegation in Moldova, exemplified in the recent creation of her post as a press officer, is to change the technocratic and clumsy language to a direct and engaging discourse towards the citizens, based on clear benefits and mutual respect. She noted that the polarization of media outlets and their ownership has created imbalances in the ability of different external actors – especially the EU- to send their messages and of citizens to receive them. She suggested the EU may persuade its audiences through success stories and honest reporting, but the media channels through which these messages arrive are few.

Three speakers were asked to comment on what citizens want to know about EU and on how they assess the effectiveness or resonance of the policy information from EU Delegation. Can the EU overcome its tendency to address elites and experts and define a narrative to appeal to citizens more directly? Journalists’ views were presented by panel members Vasile Botnaru, Country Director of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Ludmila Barba, Senior Editor of the TV Programme ‘European Vector’ at the National Public TV Teleradio Moldova. Vasile Botnaru warned the audience that journalists themselves need to be active and not take uncritically on board the ‘free lunch’ information provided by various outlets without digging deeper themselves. He was critical of the changes in the communication discourse of the EU in Moldova, saying that it is as if the EU ‘sells a car, being less interested to interact with the real feelings of the population’. Barba suggested the EU’s own communications and actions are not internally coherent, noting the mixed reactions of different EU actors towards the presidential elections in Moldova and relations with the President elect.


Last but not least, the previous government’s strategy for EU communication and the most serious challenges were discussed by Iulian Groza, Director of IPRE, Former Deputy Minister of the MFA. Groza argued that Moldovan audience needs to receive less geopolitical messages, and more specific points related to the real agenda of the population. The panel discussion turned into a heated exchange of views on what not only the European Union, but also politicians and journalists in Moldova may want to communicate about Moldova’s chosen path towards closer relations with the EU and the implementation of the DCFTA.

The event was attended by 46 participants, 6 TV teams, providing on-line streaming TV live from the event. MFA officials, diplomats from the EU delegation and other embassies attended as well. The policy briefing attracted a lot of attention in the local mass media.Opening a lively, rich and critical debate, with a discussion of some of the real challenges of communicating the EU actions by a variety of participants was the event’s greatest contribution, first and hopefully, not the last EU-STRAT contribution to public debates in Moldova.

Policy briefing in Kyiv

The EU-STRAT Kyiv Policy Briefing took place on November 14, 2016, in Hotel Kyiv. The event was organized by the Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy with the participation of other partners of the project consortium, the University of Birmingham and ESTEP. The purpose of the briefing was to present the EU-STRAT project and discuss how the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (AA), and the Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement (DCFTA) in particular, is shaping Ukraine’s economy.

The panelists and keynote speakers represented the Ukrainian government and the research and expert communities: Kataryna Wolczuk and Rilka Drageva-Lewers from the University of Birmingham, Algirdas Šemeta, the Business Ombudsman, Igor Burakovskiy from the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting, Andriy Nikitov from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Anna Artemenko from the Antimonopoly Committee, Darius Žeruolis from ESTEP, and Ildar Gazizullin from the Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy (UIPP).


Maxim Boroda and Ildar Gazizullin from UIPP opened the briefing by presenting the EU-STRAT motivation and objectives. Andriy Nikitov from the MFA suggested that the EU should take a differentiated approach to the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries but not lower the targets because of different speeds of integration. Rilka Dragneva-Lewers from the University of Birmingham presented some of the internal and external challenges for the EU-Ukraine cooperation, stemming from the complexity of the Association Agreement itself (which makes its implementation a difficult task prolonged in time), Brexit, strong opposition to EU expansion in Italy and France, anti-liberal sentiments in Poland and Hungary, and finally, the the Ukraine-Russia conflict.


During the Q&A session the participants discussed a number of issues, for example, the importance of establishing DCFTA dialogue platforms between the government and businesses and the role of the AA as a transformational instrument.

Overall, the briefing participants concluded that DCFTA could become a foundation for long-term political and economic transformation of Ukraine. It was recommended to establish clear links of the many and currently unknown Europeanization activities with specific positive impacts. Such information should be communicated regularly to the key stakeholders to ensure that there is continuing support on the implementation path.