EU-LISTCO newsletter with insightful analysis, latest news, and events.


This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement no. 769886


Greetings! Here is EU-LISTCO’s Second Newsletter

And the timing could not be worse—or better—depending on how one views the political challenges facing the EU.

In this issue


For academics working on issues concerning limited statehood and contested orders, they have to deal with an EU that is in flux. There is the issue of Brexit and its impact on the future of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the troubles in Northern Ireland. There are the pending European Parliament elections in which far-right parties are expected to make considerable gains.

These elections will be followed by long and unseemly horse trading over the top posts in the Commission, the Council, and the European External Action Service. In order words, do not expect any serious input into foreign policy, just when it is all the more necessary given the miserable state of transatlantic relations.

As it is, the leaders of the outgoing institutions have had very different foreign policy agendas. And even though much has been made of the EU Global Strategy, its ambitions have fallen short. This is because the EU lacks the political will to establish a strong defence and security policy to underpin its often incoherent foreign policy and its soft power.

This paralysis is bad news for Europe’s neighbourhoods. They are not in the best of shape. The outcome of Ukraine’s presidential and parliamentary elections is far from clear. If Europe wants to have not only a stable Ukraine but one anchored on strong, transparent reforms, a strong and independent judiciary, and a rule of law that is consistent, this means the EU going for the long haul. Regardless of what happens inside the EU, any weakening of its attention span on its big eastern neighbour would be strategically and geopolitically short sighted. For now, Ukraine’s statehood—while stronger than a few years back—is limited, and its borders are contested by Russia.

To Europe’s south, being able to identify any trend is extremely difficult and foolhardy. If and when the war finally ends in Syria, it is not clear what role Europe will play (apart from financing the country’s reconstruction), not to mention Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Syria may well become synonymous with contested orders and limited statehood. Nor is it at all clear what a post-war peace in Syria would mean for Israel’s security.

In Egypt, limited statehood took a new twist when the parliament rubber-stamped changes to the constitution that will allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to hold onto his job until 2034.

And yet, there are some encouraging trends. They are being shaped by young, political elites who have not succumbed to cynicism and corruption and who have not depended on the EU as a catalyst for change.

Take for instance the rapprochement between Athens and Skopje. Who would have thought that after so many years of disagreements, of rhetoric fuelled by nationalists from both sides, and a dysfunctional political system perpetuated by a corrupt regime in Skopje, that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev could agree to end the dispute over the name of Macedonia? The two leaders and their teams of skilled diplomats did it themselves. It was a great leap of political realism, courage, and maturity.

Next door, in Serbia and Kosovo, plans are afoot to normalize relations that would close yet another chapter of unfinished business since the end of the war in the former Yugoslavia in 1999. Despite initial strong opposition from Germany, from the EU, and from senior European diplomats, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi have together decided to find a way to end a dispute that would entail Serbia recognizing the independence of Kosovo. Both leaders realize that joining the EU or NATO is not possible without normalizing relations, which is why they initiated this move themselves. By doing so, they rejected the status quo, just as Athens and Skopje did. That status quo that created a kind of limbo was debilitating and dangerous.

Further afield, in Armenia, the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan was elected as prime minister by parliament in May 2018 after he spearheaded weeks of mass protests against the ruling party. In parliamentary elections in December 2018, his My Step Alliance party won an overwhelming victory. These new faces in Yerevan combine realpolitik with values. Watch how Pashinyan deals with Russia and how he might try to end the deadlock over the long-running dispute with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

In short, as the EU becomes preoccupied with its own institutional issues, there are some new political players outside the bloc that want to initiate change themselves. For them, waiting is not an option.

—Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Europe Foundation

Working paper

Conceptual Framework: Fostering Resilience in Areas of Limited Statehood and Contested Orders

Tanja A. Börzel, Thomas Risse

Neither limited statehood nor contested orders will go away. Only if and when they deteriorate into governance breakdowns and violent conflicts, risks turn into threats to the security and stability of the EU, its member states, and citizens.

Policy Paper

Policy Relevant Scholarship? The Value of Creating, Framing, and Storytelling

Nathalie Tocci

While occasions of contact between academia and practice exist, they remain mainly ad hoc and superficial. Academics can contribute to policy-making by using their unique skill set but with an eye for the concepts, the framing, and the storytelling.

Blog post

How Populism Spills Over Into Foreign Policy

David Cadier

Governing populists overprioritize domestic politics, indulge in “undiplomatic” diplomacy, and yield to conspiracy theories. The implications for EU foreign policy cannot be underestimated.

Policy paper

Strengthening Resilience in the EU’s Neighbourhood

Karoline Eickoff, Eric Stollenwerk

In order to help build resilience, the EU needs to know its neighbours, find the right partners in its neighbourhood, and provide the policy space for new resilience partnerships to develop.

Judy Dempsey asked EU-LISTCO researchers:    What is the biggest threat facing your region?    Here are their answers.

Judy Dempsey asked EU-LISTCO researchers: What is the biggest threat facing your region? Here are their answers.

Khalil Shikaki, Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research

The Middle East and the Arab World are confronting multiple challenges: violent threats from nonstate actors, such as ISIS and affiliated groups; outside intervention by Iran, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, and the United States, as has happened in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen; a potential regional arms race, especially involving the Gulf countries and Iran; rising sectarianism, as in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen; the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict and the great potential for escalation in various places such as Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Syria; and economic underdevelopment due to corruption, uneven access to resources, brain drain, gender inequalities, and educational deficits.

Yet, it is governance failures and the resurgence of authoritarianism that could be called the biggest threat to the region due to the potential long-term destabilization impact on larger parts of the region and its surroundings. Failure to learn the lesson of the 2011 Arab Spring, the need for regime reform—a gradual transition to democracy, security sector reforms, strengthening rule of law and the justice system, and allowing the creation of a pluralistic civil society—could once again lead to demands for regime change. A futile search for short-term stability, even if fragile, this time with the implicit support of the United States and the EU, makes it extremely difficult to foster societal resilience, thereby creating a vacuum that can be filled by despair and extreme ideologies and can lead to continued demands of mass immigration and high risks of deterioration into violence.

Riccardo Alcaro, Istituto Affari Internazionali

Europe faces a broadly volatile security environment around its borders. Russia’s active measures, fomenting intra-EU divisions and delegitimising EU integration, may contribute to the weakening of Europe’s normative institutional order while making European countries less capable of resisting Moscow’s attempts at altering the balance of power in Eastern Europe. A greater threat may originate from the Middle East. The aggressive attempts at containing and isolating Iran by the United States and its regional allies—Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—are eroding the intra-European consensus that it’s in Europe’s interest to pragmatically engage with Iran, starting with taking real action to save the faltering nuclear deal.

If Europe fails to give Iran any incentives to remain in the deal and backtracks entirely on the promise of regular engagement on regional issues that was implicit in the agreement, it will do great harm to its interests. First, Europe will see its normative interest in the upholding of the non-proliferation regime negatively affected by Iran’s reactivation of nuclear activities and possible withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as well as by the potential regional nuclear arms race that this could cause. Second, Europe’s security interest in the (residual) stability of the Middle East will be damaged by growing confrontation between Iran and its rivals, which may escalate into extensive military exchanges outside of Syria. Third, Europe’s strategic interest in developing foreign policy autonomy will be exposed as illusory as Europe will prove incapable of resisting external pressure to act against its declared interests.

Patrycja Sasnal, Polish Institute of International Affairs

There is no need to reinvent the wheel when looking for threats facing Europe’s Southern neighbourhood. The UNDP development report has covered them for almost two decades now. The structural malfunction of state institutions in the Middle East and North Africa emerges as the biggest threat to the people living south of Europe. The malfunction is caused by corruption, weak governance, physical insecurity, authoritarianism, strength of the security apparatus, inefficient economy, inept educational system, and poor healthcare, to name but a few reasons. It is really hard to tell which came first since these structural problems tend to mutually reinforce each other.

Apart from the structural disadvantages, one threat in particular has recently emerged anew: power politics. The governments of the region are involved in more big power plays and have taken their citizens hostage with invented problems that are otherwise easily avoidable with a little bit of political will. The two camps that are forming in Europe’s South—the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi alliance against Iran, the Palestinians, and international law—are reshaping the region. It’s impossible to predict the outcome in detail but easy to guess in general: there will be more conflict, less security. This division is pushing the region down a dangerous path that allows regional governments to divert their citizens’ attention from the biggest, most direct, and deeply structural problems. This is the single, new, and biggest threat to the Middle East.

Agnieszka Legucka, Polish Institute for International Affairs

Countries in Eastern Europe are facing multiple security dilemmas resulting from external and internal dynamics. The pivotal issue is Russia’s politics towards this region, which Moscow perceives as place of its privileged interests. The biggest threat stems from further aggressive actions and possible clashes between neighbouring states, where Russia usually acts through proxies and de facto states like Donbas, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, or Abkhazia to influence Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. That is why the main challenge for countries surrounding Russia is to maintain their sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. Russia’s destabilizing role in the region can be seen in its support, with weapons and money, for the so-called separatists in Donbas (Ukraine); changing borders in Georgia; and its de facto military control over the Azov Sea. Militarization of foreign policy, renewed conflicts, increasing arms races, and illegal territorial changes affect the societies and economies of these countries.

Poverty, migration (leading to brain drain), and social stratification (worsened by patronage systems and corruption) are only a few factors that influence the low level of social trust, resilience, or development of civil society. The internal threats have structural causes. The kleptocratic model of governance and oligarchy spoils the political system in these countries, where the lack of institutional and legal transparency blocks democratic reforms and provides the conditions for social unrest and revolutions. The biggest threat is further division between political and business elite and the poor society.

Saime Ozcurumez, Bilkent University

The EU-LISTCO research creates, facilitates, and consolidates a multifaceted dialogue among communities of science and policy across regions in identifying the tipping points for risks turning into threats, as well as how to respond to them by fostering processes of resilience and institutional design. The long-term resilience of most institutions can be largely explained through their capacity to respond adequately and timely to a plethora of risks that could turn into threats to their survival. An adequate and timely response can be achieved through cooperation for resilience among all parties potentially affected by the threat. Therefore, not seeking answers to the following questions constitutes the biggest threat for any region: Why is fostering cooperation, collaboration, and solidarity among a multitude of actors locally, regionally, and globally so challenging? How can societies and states overcome the challenges to institutionalizing those efforts? The process of collaboration in this research along with the findings will enable the stakeholders to conceptualize the multiplicity of existing sources and prospective consequences threats and how to respond collaboratively.

Kornely Kakachia, Georgian Institute of Politics

While the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood is experiencing a myriad of challenges, the foremost challenge is dealing with resurgent Russian power. Attempting to revise international norms, Moscow tries to undermine the sovereignty of its smaller neighbours and push them to accommodate its geopolitical interests. Whereas the continued presence of Russian military in conflict zones is one destabilizing factor for EaP countries, the Kremlin is also using a variety of hybrid warfare, cyber attacks, and disinformation campaigns to support of anti-European sentiments in partner countries, all with the aim to derail their Euro-Atlantic course.

Russia’s ready reliance on military force encouraged regional states to diversify their political, economic, and cultural relations with the outside world, especially towards the European Union, the United States, and rising nonregional power China.

While Russia remains a major security threat, other factors most negatively influencing the abilities of EaP countries to address their external threats include the lack of reliable international mechanisms and security guarantees, high levels of corruption, oligarchic models of governance, weak economies and low living standards, and the weakness of their democratic institutions.

Wars and state disintegration in the Near and Middle East have a direct impact on regional security as well. Some EaP countries, like Georgia and Azerbaijan, are facing problems related to the rise of radical Islam. Extremist movements, such as al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, have proved capable of recruiting young people, including women, from the area who went to Syria to fight. Despite their small number, fighters from the region have played a significant role in forming and leading several militant organizations in Syria and Iraq.

Pol Bargués-Pedreny, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs

An increasingly large number of Europeans recognize how the promises of a liberal democratic order have not been fulfilled. Instead of an integrated Europe that guarantees economic development, Europeans suffer from job insecurities, debt bubbles, and deep inequalities among member states. Norms of coexistence and fraternity are also challenged by the rise of anti-immigrant, ultra-nationalist parties and movements. The slowing consolidation of liberal democracy abroad worries most Europeans, too. As EU-LISTCO’s research finds out in WP5, the EU seems yet unprepared to facilitate resilience to conflict and crises in areas of limited statehood and contested orders. Rather than leading a globalised world where democracy and moral values are spreading, Europeans have a secondary role and lament the U.S. withdrawal from international agreements and the rise of autocratic regimes, protracted conflicts, and migratory crises. Climate change—whose fight was once the banner of a normative Europe—is denied or deemed unimportant internationally, as ocean acidification, melting glaciers, and extreme weather events jeopardize ecosystems and cultures.

The demise of liberal democratic orders would not be problematic for many Europeans, provided that the prospects of progressive alternatives were mushrooming. Renewed discourses or programmes of social protection and provision, economic redistribution, and climate change mitigation that could persuade majorities would bring hope to Europe. However, the Left has been unable to articulate a response to the current situation of socioeconomic crisis, political disorientation, and climate emergency. Indeed, the Left in Europe is disintegrating and feebler than ever, as anti-immigrant Far Right parties steal the limelight and squeeze into the parliaments of member states.


Why Aren’t More Islamists Taking Up Arms in Tunisia and Egypt?

European University Institute
Georges Fahmi, Federica Bicchi

Although most policy attention focuses on the causes of radicalisation, the case of Egyptian and Tunisian Islamists raises an equally important question: why has only a small minority turned to violence?

Beyond Smuggling: Tunisia’s on the Ground Responses and Perspectives to EU’s Counter-Smuggling Practices

European University Institute
Gabriella Sanchez, Federica Bicchi

How do Tunisian people conceptualise mobility and smuggling, given the very lack of legislation criminalising the practice in that country? How does that clash with European perspectives concerning the facilitation of irregular migration?

Areas of Limited Statehood, Contested Orders, and the Future of EU Security

Robert Bosch Stiftung
Thomas Risse, Amichai Magen, Johannes Gabriel

The European Union’s neighbourhood is increasingly characterised by two main sources of risks: areas of limited statehood and contested orders. What are the implications for European security?

"Populist parties do politics differently. But do they do foreign policy differently? In this piece for @Carnegie_Europe and @eulistco, I argue that, more than their ideas, what most distinguishes governing populists in foreign policy is their style /THREAD"

David Cadier (SciencesPo) on Twitter

Financial Times

The Rise of the Populist Authoritarians

Martin Wolf

Elites must consider their responsibility for the worldwide resurgence of strongmen.

Carnegie Europe

Uncertain Ground: Engaging With Europe’s De Facto States and Breakaway Territories

Thomas de Waal

Abkhazia, Transdniestria, and northern Cyprus, three unrecognized statelets in Europe that arose during conflicts in the twentieth century, have endured for decades. Despite many problems, they are self-governing and stable, and they show no signs of collapsing.


New Conservatives in Russia and East Central Europe

edited by Katharina Bluhm, Mihai Varga

The "renaissance of conservatism" in Russia and East Central Europe represents variations on a new, illiberal conservatism that aims to re-establish a strong state sovereignty defining and pursuing a national path of development.

European Union Institute for Security Studies

What if...? Scanning the Horizon: 12 Scenarios for 2021

edited by Florence Gaub

Foresight is about choice, decision and actionand not, as is repeated time and again, predicting the future and getting it wrong.

twitter logo facebook logo