Re-Engaging with Neighbours in a State of War and Geopolitical Tensions (RE-ENGAGE)

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.


Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU has responded by re-engaging with its neighbours. This builds on the assumption that bringing them into the European family of liberal democracies will increase the resilience of the whole European community against external negative interference. Combining insights from a variety of academic fields, RE-ENGAGE will deliver innovative research and concrete advice on how the EU should adapt its foreign policy tools to the current context. Russia’s war against Ukraine has radically altered European security, not only causing extreme civilian suffering in Ukraine, but posing a direct threat to neighbouring countries fearful of the war spreading.

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, and increasing national defence spending to better handle potential military threats. This has also led to a revival of EU enlargement process. While this will not improve EU resilience to military threats in the narrow sense, it may counter hybrid warfare, which is the more likely threat faced by the EU and most of its neighbours.

The neighbourhood policy and the accession process require urgent adjustment to build strong, resilient neighbourhood states capable of countering external threats, particularly those posed by hybrid warfare. A systematic investigation of how this can be achieved in the current context without compromising the EU’s values and security is therefore needed. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, there have been increasing calls from the EU for a more context-sensitive approach to its neighbours. RE-ENGAGE will assist the EU in determining how best to achieve this goal through an in-depth study of six cases – three in the Western Balkans and three in the Eastern Neighbourhood.




The European Commission's HORIZON-CL2-2023-DEMOCRACY-01 (Standing up for democracy) call aims to fund research and innovation activities in the field of democracy. Funded projects will contribute to produce theoretically and empirically robust visions for the future of liberal democratic institutions and reflect upon and actualise what liberal democracy means in the 21st century in Europe. It should also develop recommendations, toolkits, narratives and methodologies to reinstate the legitimacy and effectiveness of liberal democracies.