A complacent strategy focusing on slow change rather than pressing crises is losing the EU its battle with Russia for influence in the eastern neighbourhood, according to the authors of a new report by the European Council on Foreign Relations.
The authors predict dire consequences for the six eastern neighbours of the EU - Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia - as well as for the EU itself, unless EU leaders improve their act and stop placing a lazy bet on a strategy of "enlargement-lite" while ignoring that the six countries are deep in the worst political and economic crisis since their independence. This irresponsible lack of attention means Europe risks another "August surprise" with Russia, like last year's Georgian war - this time over new elections in Moldova or another gas crisis in Ukraine. Yet the EU continues to pursue a strategy of incremental, long-term reform in the region, as most recently with the "Eastern Partnership" launched in May.
The report, entitled The limits of enlargement-lite: European and Russian power in the troubled neighbourhood, is based on extensive work by researchers mapping EU and Russian power in each of the six neighbourhood countries. The authors, Andrew Wilson and Nicu Popescu, argue that the EU urgently needs to rethink its approach to eastern Europe or face a ring of failing states and an increasingly active Russia rebuilding its sphere of influence.