Emerging Europe is in the midst of evolving international alliances. A de facto commitment and attraction solely to the West / E.U. is being challenged by a regional ruling elite looking to establish closer ties to Russia and China.

The Russia factor is largely justified by the simple fact that Putin’s approach to governance has ostensibly shaped the political discourse of the ruling elite in Emerging Europe. This, for example, resonates in the rise of personalised / quasi-authoritarian rule as demonstrated in our other Outlook analysis, also released today. As part of its foreign policy agenda, Russia has also sought to solidify the position of many of the regions (Russia-aligned) ruling elite through soft power, as described in a March 2017 Shadow Governance analysis entitled “Moscow’s Influence Over Serbia”.

China, on the other hand, has announced its global economic ambitions through the “One Belt One Road" programme. This programme, which incorporates Emerging Europe, has contributed to a shift in the types of investment attracted to the region over the past year – suggesting that trends in commercial relations will continue along a trajectory that sees non-Western investments increase.

Pragmatism appears to be one of the main characteristics of EU policies that are being applied in the region. Focused on restricting the flow of migrants coming from the Middle East and Asia, the EU appears to be reducing its demands for democratic reforms, including separation of powers, press freedoms and respect of human rights.