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How should the EU re-engage with its neighbours in a state of war and increased geopolitical tensions?

Russia’s war against Ukraine has radically altered European security. Confronted by the direst security crisis in decades, EU policymakers are forced to fundamentally rethink their security policies. Europe has demonstrated unexpected unity and resolve, adopting a series of sanctions against Russia, increasing national defence spending, but also by deciding on a historic revival of the EU enlargement process.

Still, there is an urgent need to make sure that this process contributes to democratic, well-functioning and stable neighbourhood states, capable of countering external threats, particularly those posed by hybrid warfare. A thorough investigation is required to determine how this can be achieved without compromising the EU’s values and security in the current context.

RE-ENGAGE’s overarching ambition is to assist the EU in refining its foreign policy toolbox, including its enlargement and neighbourhood policies. This will enhance the Union’s geopolitical leverage and provide better tools for democracy promotion in its neighbourhood. To achieve this goal, RE-ENGAGE will conduct in-depth studies in six candidate countries – three in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia) and three in the Eastern Neighbourhood (Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine).

The three following research questions will be guiding these studies:

  1. What can we learn from past external democratisation attempts – what has worked and what has not, and how can we achieve the level of context sensitivity required?
  2. How and to what extent has EU engagement in these two regions been challenged by negative external actor (‘black knight’) engagement – how is this type of engagement likely to develop in the future, and what can be done to counter it?
  3. How and to what extent is the EU becoming more resilient against hybrid threats and warfare, and how can the neighbourhood policy and the accession process strengthen the overall foreign policy arsenal against such threats?

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