Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has ended the post-Cold War European security order, creating new realities in countries neighbouring the EU and shattering illusions in several member states about the Kremlin’s true intentions in wider Europe. By granting candidate status to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, the EU has rejected a Russian sphere of influence and instead determined where its future borders should lie. But this decision has not yet led to policies tailored to effectively respond to a geopolitical context which also sees China and other state actors competing for influence. The Eastern Partnership still needs to be fitted with security and connectivity components. In the accession process, existing formats had already reached their limits with, inter alia, the obstructionism by certain member states that is linked to the divisive issue of EU internal reform. This has cost the EU a lot of credibility in the Western Balkans and will take years to resolve.

REUNIR, a Horizon-funded project with 12 partners from across Europe, examines how the EU can strengthen its foreign and security toolboxes to bolster the resilience and transformation of (potential) candidate countries in a new age of international relations. REUNIR’s foresight approach takes the fundamental uncertainty and openness of alternative futures seriously. Adding the effects of ‘protean power’ unleashed in unforeseen circumstances to a multi-disciplinary approach to the research of the EU’s ‘control power’ in relations with strategic rivals, REUNIR empirically assesses foreign threats to the military, socio-economic and democratic resilience of nine neighbouring countries, determines capability shortfalls, maps local perceptions of the EU’s support and political perspectives inside the EU on neighbourhood relations. Outlining scenarios up to 2035, REUNIR offers evidence-based policy recommendations to mitigate malign foreign interference and contribute to strengthening the EU’s external action.

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