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EU needs to rethink policy on Eastern Europe and Russia

Professor Richard WhitmanEU expert Professor Richard Whitman has warned that the European Union needs to rethink its policy on its relationship with its eastern neighbours or risk creating a rift with Russia.

According to Professor Whitman, who is a member of the University of Kent's School of Politics and International Relations and its Brussels School of International Studies, a forthcoming set of new formal agreements between the EU and Ukraine, Moldova and the South Caucasus states mean that there is an urgent need to create a more defined place for Russia. These agreements will be signed by all parties at the Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit 28-29 November.

He said: ‘The EU has been working to deepen the economic and political relationship it has with its Eastern neighbouring countries over recent years. However, the agreements that are due to be signed at the Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit at the end of November have provoked the Russian Federation into seeking to offer an alternative economic relationship to the exclusion of the EU.

‘It is clear that the EU needs to set out a reform agenda towards the EaP states to enable it to agree a more binding agreement. Within this, there is an urgency for the EU to think more strategically vis-à-vis its neighbourhood and create a more clear-cut place for Russia to avoid the current situation of divisive competition.

'Further, the EU needs to reform aspects of its current EaP policy. The EU needs to define a clearer and measurable set of objectives for its role in the resolution of the "frozen" conflicts of its Eastern neighbourhood; refresh its policy towards Belarus; speed up visa liberalisation to ease travel for citizens of the EU's neighbouring states and also deepen and broaden civil society engagement by investing more in deep democracy, linkage and people-to-people contacts.'

Professor Whitman and Kent colleagues Dr Tom Casier and Professor Elena Korosteleva have set out their case for reform of the EU’s EaP policy in a paper published on Wednesday 16 October by the University's new Global Europe Centre (

Dr Casier commented: ‘In this paper we contend that the EU needs to define a 'next generation' objective for the EaP as it enters the implementation phase of the current set of Association Agreements. We also propose that the EU establish a European Partnership community (EPC) as a goal for the EaP.'

Building a Stronger Eastern Partnership: Towards an EaP 2.0 is available at:


Story published at 1:08pm 16 October 2013

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Last Updated: 12/06/2013