Policy briefing on scientific cooperation in Minsk

EU-STRAT held a policy briefing on scientific cooperation on 24 November in Minsk, Belarus. The event was organized by SYMPA, EU-STRAT’s partner institution in the country.

The briefing focused on the challenges and accomplishments of scientific cooperation and academic mobility in the the Eastern Partnership countries.

The briefing was attended by representatives of numerous Belorussian universities and higher education institutions (Belorussian State University, Belorussian State Pedagogical University, Salharov’s Institute of BSU, Belorussian State Economic University, Public Administration Academy, National scientific and practical centre of maternal and newborn heath and the Instutite for Training of Court Experts) and research institutions (Institute of Economy of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Food of the National Academy of Sciences). Also present were representatives from NGOs (Independent Bologna Committee, Union of Belarusian Students, Human rights centre „Viasna”), think tanks (BISS, Liberal Club), the National contact point of Horizon 2020, and members of the diplomatic corps residing in Minsk.




The event was opened by the representative of the EU Delegation in Minsk, the Director of Operations Dr. Frederik Coene. He spoke of the importance of bringing together academic research and practical experience for economic and political development in Belarus. Ina Ramasheuskaya and Tatsiana Chulitskaya from SYMPA presented EU-STRAT and its significance for Belarus, and highlighted the need to engage with target audiences in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.

The keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Aleksa Bjelis, a representative of Magna Charta Observatory and former rector of Zagreb University in Croatia. His speech set the context for the discussion of scientific cooperation and academic principles that followed. Dr Bjelis drew from his experience of serving in various EU councils and associations dealing with higher education, research and innovation reform to highlight the main challenges and opportunities for transition countries that want to utilize available EU research funding in the most efficient way.




Dr. Dimiter Toshkov from Leiden University presented first results from EU-STRAT’s Work Package 7. He outlined how the study of the research cooperation and academic mobility fits into the context of studying broader societal transformations and showcased some findings from the study of the institutional framework of cooperation between the EU and Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.

These presentations were first discussed by Olga Meerovskaya, National contact point on Horizon 2020 in Minsk, and Dr. Vladimir Dounaev, Independent Bologna Committee. This was followed by an engaging and lively open discussion during which the participants raised a lot of interesting and important points related to the problems and challenges of international scientific cooperation in Belarus and other former Soviet countries, as well as the role of the EU in supporting this process.





Workshop 13 October 2016, Berlin

EU-STRAT’s second workshop took place in October 13, 2016 and was hosted by the team at Freie Universität Berlin (FUB). The workshop’s goal was to bring together EU-STRAT partners to agree on the overall conceptual framework for understanding varieties of social orders in the EaP countries, a key objective of the project’s Work Package (WP) 2. In order to do so, EU-STRAT researchers will seek to determine the degree of political and economic openness prevailing in EaP countries, as well as the distribution of power among important economic and political actors that qualify as members of so-called dominant coalitions.

EU-STRAT researchers present at the workshop were from Leiden University, University of Birmingham, the School of Young Managers in Public Administration (SYMPA), the Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy (UIPP), the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS), Vilnius University (VU), the Lithuanian consultancy ESTEP, and the Foundation Maison des Sciences d l’Homme (FMSH).

Partners debated how to best identify dominant elites and power networks, as well as organizations and informal institutions that structure political and economic openness in the EaP countries. They focused inter alia on the potential role of military and secret service organizations, as well as on the need to differentiate between political and bureaucratic actors. The workshop participants also used the opportunity to discuss ways that allow analysing social orders in breadth and depth in the EaP region. WP2 will start with mapping varieties of social orders in the EaP countries, which should help to identify instances of ruptures or stabilization. In a second step, partners in WP2 will zoom in on these cases and investigate the mechanisms and factors that drove these changes, in order to eventually explain alterations to otherwise relatively stable equilibria of social orders.

First working paper published

We are excited to share EU-STRAT’s first working paper ‘Soft, Normative or Transformative Power: What do the EU’s communications with Eastern partners reveal about its influence?‘. The working paper has been now published on EU-STRAT’s website and can be accessed here. This is joint work by EU-STRAT members Antoaneta Dimitrova, Maxim Boroda, Tatsiana Chulitskaya, Veaceslav Berbeca and Tatiana Parvan.

Here is the abstract:

‘In 2014-2015, the European Union revised its neighbourhood policy (ENP), aiming to introduce more differentiation and a more pragmatic approach to the varying levels of ambition for cooperation or integration of neighbouring countries. The Eastern Partnership, a policy explicitly targeting the EU’s eastern neighbours, has encountered serious setbacks in the face of Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance. Communication about what the EU does with and for neighbouring states is an essential component for the success of the revised ENP, especially given rising concerns about Russia’s use of media to promote its own view of developments in the region and the choices of neighbouring countries as a zero sum game.

This paper seeks to establish what the EU’s communications reveal about its status as soft, normative or transformative power in the region. The paper analyses the EU’s communications towards Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine for a two-month period in 2015, after the adoption of the revised ENP. To guide the analysis, the paper revisits the concepts of soft, normative and transformative power. Comparing the scope and elements of these concepts, we suggest that transformative power approaches stress a broad spectrum of reform targeting future members, while soft and normative power address any third states. Soft power includes economic aspects contributing to the EU’s (or other powers) attractiveness, while as a normative power the EU focuses primarily on norms. Using this framework, the paper finds that the EU’s official communications to Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine represented a different mix of elements.

Communications to Belarus were different from the communications to the other two states, stressing normative and rights issues. The range of concepts addressed in communications to Moldova and Ukraine has been broader and more varied. The main emphasis in communications to Ukraine and Moldova were democratic governance (Ukraine) and economic reforms (Moldova). Therefore, it is possible to distinguish normative and transformative power elements in the EU’s communications to the three Eastern Partnership countries. Last but not least, there is still a substantial share of messages that are event driven, that is, focus on specific events rather than on the benefits of cooperation with the EU as a whole.’

Workshop discussing the analytical framework for comparing approaches and strategies in Vilnius

On 14 July 2016 EU-STRAT held a workshop discussing the analytical framework for comparing approaches and strategies of selected external actors at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University.  Participants from four EU-STRAT partner institutions attended the workshop: Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, Dovilė Jakniūnaitė, Laurynas Jonavičius, Margarita Šešelgytė from Vilnius university, Kataryna Wolczuk and Rilka Dragneva-Lewers from the University of Birmingham, Dirk Lehmkuhl from the University of St.Gallen and Valentin Lozovanu from the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives. The aim of the workshop was to explore and discuss the analytical framework for comparing approaches and strategies of the EU and other selected external actors vis-à-vis EaP countries in key sectors, namely energy, trade, security, and migration. Five presentations of scholarship in five areas (Geopolitics/geo-economics, IR approaches; Regionalism and international organizations approaches; Alliance building and regional cooperation/transformative power; Democracy promotion; Political economy of reforms) were discussed during the workshop to provide an overview of existing literature, its gaps and potentially useful insights from the view of the EU-STRAT project. The workshop participants also took decisions regarding the sectoral scope of the analysis, the target countries, the time frame and the external players and their composition.

The workshop was part of EU-STRAT’s Work Package (WP) 4.  The overall goal of WP4 is to investigate and assess the policies and strategies of external actors in order to better understand their impact on EaP countries.

First newsletter published!

The first newsletter of EU-STRAT is now published. You can find it here and read about the opening conference and consult a special policy comment by Rafal Sadowski (OSW) on the prospects for the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement after the Dutch referendum.

Photos from the Kick-Off Conference in Berlin (June 2016)

The Kick-Off conference of EU-STRAT is history. Here are some photos from the event:

Round Table ‘Looking Inside-Out: Strategies for Transforming the Neighbourhood’


EU-STRAT held its first public event on 8 June 2016 – a round table entitled ‘Looking Inside-Out: Strategies for Transforming the Neighbourhood‘. The round table featured Elena Belokurova (EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and EU-STRAT Advisory Board Member), Antoaneta Dimitrova  (Leiden University, co-coordinator of EU-STRAT), Andrius Kubilius (former Prime Minister of Lithuania, Member of the Seimas, Member of the International Advisory Panel on Ukraine, EUSTRAT Advisory Board Member), Igor Munteanu (former Ambassador of Moldova to the US and Canada, Institute for Development and Social Initiatives, Moldova, EU-STRAT partner), and Emma Udwin (Deputy Head of Cabinet, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission) and was moderated by Tanja A. Börzel (Freie Universität Berlin, EU-STRAT coordinator). The event was hosted by the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Germany.


The discussion focused on several themes related to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, and EU’s foreign policy more generally. The panelists discussed the strategic and socio-political differences between the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the big-bang enlargement of the EU to the East occurred, and the current situation that the EU and the EaP countries face. The participants also analyzed the roles of values and interests as drivers of EU’s foreign policy and EU’s relationships with its neighborhood and the challenges of promoting democracy, peace, and prosperity in the region. Policy-makers, experts, and EU-STRAT project members agreed that there is a great need for further academic research shedding light on these questions, setting the scene for the exciting next three years of EU-STRAT.

EU-STRAT Kick-Off Conference

EU-STRAT kicks-off with its opening conference that is going to take place 8-10 June in Berlin. More information is available here.


Welcome to the website of EU-STRAT! EU-STRAT is an international research project that studies the relationship between the European Union and the countries in the European Eastern neighborhood. The project started on 1 May 2016 and will continue until the end of April 2019. At this website you will find news and information about the project aims, participating institutions, as well as links to the research products delivered by the project, including working papers and policy briefs.

To stay in touch with EU-STRAT, you can subscribe to the newsletter (coming soon) or to the RSS feed of this website. You can also get in touch with us directly at: contact.eustrat@gmail.com.