European Affairs

In recent years tensions within and beyond the European Union’s borders have made it more vulnerable than ever before. Brussel’s seeming inability to find a definitive answer to solving the ongoing humanitarian crisis along its southern border has provoked waves of Euroscepticism within its member states. Eurosceptic thinking has reached such proportions that the United Kingdom was forced into a referendum, eventually declaring its exit from the EU. However, provocative behaviour from Europe’s eastern neighbour, Russia, seems to underline the importance of a harmonious European response.

Throughout the first term, our Policy Centre will examine the delicate matter of the EU’s external relations with Russia. Both are economically interdependent on one another: on the one hand the EU is Russia’s largest trading partner, while on the other hand the EU heavily relies on Russian energy supplies. Yet, Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and its alleged involvement in the poisoning of double agent Sergej Skripal on British soil has, among other things, sparked concerns over the durability of this symbiotic relationship. Moreover, political fragmentation within the EU is impeding decision-making about how to accurately respond to Russia’s increasingly provocative foreign policy. The ‘Nord Stream 2’ project is illustrative of how EU policy-makers struggle to balance vital economic cooperation with a politically-inspired sanctions regime. Despite a rapid normalisation of bilateral relations seeming unlikely at the moment, we will aim to produce policy recommendations seeking to find this balance between economic prosperity and the principles of liberal democracy.

Inevitably, our second term will revolve around the overshadowing European issue of the Brexit. Namely, during this term, on the 29th of March, 2019, Britain is due to leave the EU. Despite the deadline rapidly approaching, the levels of uncertainties faced by the diverse groups of states, institutions, organisations, companies and individuals affected are immense. EU and UK policymakers are still struggling to agree over the seemingly endless number of points due to be agreed upon. Making matters worse, internal power struggles and rivalling interests within both camps make the outcome, if any, more difficult to predict. Even the UK itself remains divided as to what it exactly wishes to gain from the Brexit. But, after more than two years have passed since Article 50 was invoked, the process has become practically irreversible. Other than evaluating respective EU and UK Brexit strategies, our efforts will also focus on analysing Brexit’s very origins by questioning the existence of a common European identity.

If you are interested in participating in our research and seek to contribute to writing policy and research papers, please do not hesitate to contact us at philip.wolters@kcl.ac.uk.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Philip Wolters
Director, European Affairs Policy Centre