This article examines the nature and implications of the emerging EU–Russia competition in their common neighbourhood. After analysing the two economic integration platforms that the EU and Russia are respectively promoting in the postsoviet space, the Eastern Partnership (EaP) and the Eurasian Economic Union, the discussion focuses on the case study of Ukraine. It is argued that depicting this emerging regional configuration as a geopolitical contest between two cohesive blocs was not fully corresponding to the reality on the ground but that it largely turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy in the case of Ukraine.
The EU should attempt to define more clearly its interests towards the region and stick closely to its values. This would contribute to send a signal to local elites and societies as well as to Russia.
The EU should de-emphasize the regional aspect of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) to focus instead on countries individually.
The EU should seek to develop its assessment capacities of the preferences and calculations of domestic actors on the ground. It should also set up epistemic networks to analyse how the strategic, political and economic structures specific to the countries of the neighbourhood contribute to shape these preferences.