INT-08-2015 - The European Union and the Eastern Partnership
Specific challenge: The European Union's Eastern and North-Eastern neighbours include six post-Soviet countries of strategic importance with whom the EU has sought to reinforce relationships since the 1990s. Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and the three countries of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia) form together part of the EU's Eastern Partnership. The relations that the Union maintains with these countries are structured around bilateral and multilateral strategies aimed at establishing durable political, economic and cultural ties. This includes intensified research and innovation collaboration through the newly established Panel on Research and Innovation.
Major concerns for the EU's foreign policy towards this region include democracy, human rights, the rule of law and socio-economic stability. Other recurring issues pertain to good governance, migration and mobility, trade, sustainability and energy security. To date, political and socio-economic transition processes in this complex region have been rather slow. Potential reasons for this relate to internal problems and uneven developments in the six countries, but also to historical legacies, culture and the geostrategic context in which the Partnership evolves. All these factors need to be understood and accounted for if the European Union wants to design policies that durably support transition processes in this region.
Scope: Research should include stock-taking of existing bilateral relations between the EU and all countries in the region as well as between these countries inter se. It should explicitly adopt the perspective of the examined countries so as to promote the understanding within the EU of the region and its challenges. Emphasis should be put on the adaptation of economies and societies of the Eastern Partnership countries to European standards. This is closely linked to the need for determining conditions necessary for the successful implementation of association agreements. Research should also examine societal development such as the evolving activities of civil society in these countries. Given the recent focus on the Caucasus in Call SSH 2013.4.1-1 ("Security and democracy in the neighbourhood: the case of the Caucasus"), and based on the findings of the research financed under this Call, specific attention should be paid to Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. Key issues forming part of the partnerships and recurring problems in bilateral relations should be addressed, comparing individual EU Member States' and Associated Countries' approaches and the EU's policies.
As part of this exercise, research should also examine if and how scientific cooperation and the mobility of researchers can contribute to an increased understanding between the EU actors and the countries and people of the region and to addressing societal challenges of shared concern. The geostrategic environment in which the Eastern Partnership evolves - including especially the role of Russia, but also of Turkey - should be taken into account. Contrasting European approaches toward the region with those of third countries (especially USA and China) could equally be of interest. Based on the research findings, EU policy options vis-à-vis Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine per se as well as to the region and its broader geostrategic environment in general should be assessed.
Broad participation of international partners from the EU's Eastern Partnership countries in proposals submitted to this call is strongly encouraged.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1.5 and 2.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Expected impact: Research on the EU's relations with key countries in the studied region will provide sound insights into the major problems facing this region as well as into the key advances and remaining challenges in the political, economic and cultural relationships between the EU and these countries. It will thus not only contribute to a better understanding of the EU's partners, but also reveal major challenges to the European Union's neighbourhood strategy and policies. This will allow for identifying significant policy implications for the EU's approach to each of the countries individually and to the region on the whole.
Type of action: Research and innovation actions