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.

IDIS „Viitorul” hosts policy briefing in Chișinău on sectoral interdependencies


On 28 May in Chișinău, IDIS ‘Viitorul’ hosted its second EU-STRAT policy briefing. The briefing revealed the findings of EU-STRAT’s research on trade, security, energy, and migration interdependencies of the Eastern Partnership countries with the EU and Russia. During the first panel, the participants discussed vulnerabilities of the EaP countries in the energy and trade sectors. The main shortcomings of the Republic of Moldova noted by the roundtable experts were: the absence of alternative interconnections, the need for an independent regulatory institution, maladministration, and need for settlement of the gas debt issue and cartel arrangements.

For more information on the briefing, stay tuned for our next newsletter in early July!

You can also watch the whole event on Youtube below:

Working Paper No. 11 has arrived

Working paper / June 2018

EU-STRAT has released its eleventh working paper. Click on the title below to download the PDF.

Working Paper No.11 (2018): Varieties of Social Orders: The political and economic fundamentals of hybrid (in)stability in the post-Soviet space

Authors: Esther Ademmer, Julia Langbein and Tanja A. Börzel


This paper takes the seminal work of Douglass North, John Wallis and Barry Weingast on varieties of social orders as a starting point to introduce a refined typology of limited access orders (LAOs) that integrates the political and economic fundamentals of hybrid (in)stability. We find that LAOs do not necessarily constrain access in the political and economic sphere to the same extent. Some combine relative economic openness with strictly limited political competition, while others constrain access to economic resources but allow for a considerable degree of political opening. This latter type proves to be the most instable type of LAO. The different strategies used by dominant elites to maintain stability in various types of LAOs provide insights into how open access institutions interact with limited access institutions in hybrid regimes. While we develop our typology for six post-Soviet countries from the third wave of democratization that function as LAOs, our typology may be applied to other hybrid regimes as well.



Tenth EU-STRAT Working Paper is here!

Working paper / April 2018

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

Working Paper No.10 (2018): Interdependencies of Eastern Partnership Countries with the EU and Russia: Three Case Studies.

Authors: Kamil Całus, Laure Delcour, Ildar Gazizullin, Tadeusz Iwański, Marta Jaroszewicz, and Kamil Klysiński


Asymmetric interdependencies with Russia have been identified as a key factor influencing domestic change in response to EU policies in Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. As argued in the literature, interdependencies can either facilitate or constrain EU-demanded change, depending on whether they are associated with EaP countries’ sensitivity or vulnerability to Russia’s policies. In this paper, we provide a systematic mapping and process-tracing of interdependencies in three EaP countries (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) and four key sectors (trade, migration, energy and security). We further explore Russia’s use of interdependencies and attempts at issue-linkage between the above sectors. Finally, we scrutinize domestic elites’ responses to Russia’s strategies.

Drawing upon the distinction between sensitivity and vulnerability, we seek in particular to identify the conditions under which Russia’s policies effectively incentivize or disincentivize the political elites in EaP countries to engage with the EU’s and Russia’s policies. We find that Russia’s attempts to link issues (even if to varying degrees across countries and sectors) effectively undermined further integration with the EU in those cases where policy alternatives were too costly for the incumbent elites. By contrast, Russia’s use of nexuses between different policy sectors have facilitated or even supported integration with the EU when the latter offered an affordable alternative to the EaP countries.

Ninth EU-STRAT Working Paper is out!

Working paper / April 2018

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

Working Paper No.9 (2018): What Kinds of Messages Can Influence Citizen Support for Closer Cooperation with the European Union? Evidence from the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood.

Dimiter Toshkov, Honorata Mazepus, and Antoaneta Dimitrova


This paper explores what factors might influence citizen preferences for closer cooperation with the EU and/or Russia in three countries from the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood: Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. The citizens in these countries have been exposed to competing narratives and policy frames, advanced by both the EU and Russia, about the purposes and effects of closer cooperation. We first develop theoretical ideas about the potential influence of framing on public attitudes towards international cooperation. We then study these ideas empirically using a survey experiment in which six different frames about international cooperation are embedded in short vignettes. The frames highlight themes such as economy, security, values or identity and were developed based on previous research on factors that influence preferences on international cooperation. The experiment was implemented among a diverse and relatively large sample of citizens in the three countries.

Our main conclusions are that thematic neutral frames of international cooperation have only very limited potential to influence directly people’s support for cooperation with the EU, but might be more potent in affecting the beliefs of people about the effects of cooperation with different partners on desired outcomes, such as economic benefits, security, and good governance. These beliefs as such are strong predictors of the preferences for international cooperation partners. In addition to the results from this experimental study, we present an analysis of the relationship between the preferred media source of news for people and their preferences for international cooperation partners. Furthermore, we explore the correlates of support for cooperation with the EU with an emphasis on the potential importance of media use. We find that there are no strong differences in average levels of support for the EU among people who use different media sources to get trustworthy news, with the possible exception of Belarus.