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Project title: “Domestic Preferences and EU Cooperation. Explaining Foreign Policies in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova: A Two-Level-Game Analysis.”, (EaP_Diplo)


Period of implementation: March 2018 – March 2021


While policies of the big players, the European Union (EU) and Russia, towards countries in their shared neighbourhood have received a significant scholarly attention (Averre 2009; e.g. Dias 2013), the domestic politics and foreign policy formation in the latter states have been only rudimentarily covered by scholars. Thus, the research project aims at addressing this lack of understanding by providing an analytical framework which could shed a light on crucial domestic (f)actors at play in the process of foreign policy formation in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. Out of 6 EaP countries the project specifies Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova (UGM), whose pro-European choice was manifest in the signature of bilateral Association Agreements. Concurrently, it analyses variances within EaP policy implementation in these states, which leave observers with the key question: what has determined essential foreign policy choices in this group of countries, sharing the same Soviet legacies and similarities within their regime types, but nevertheless showing differences in their power shifts, their societies and economies?


The essential idea of this project is to contribute to scholarly research on foreign policy choices in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova vis-à-vis Europe by employing the Two-Level-Game approach (Putnam 1988), which, based on the rational choice paradigm, puts domestic preference building at its centre. The particular innovation of the proposed research is the application of this approach to not (yet) consolidated democracies, or hybrid regimes, such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. As the Two-Level-Game approach (and other FPA-approaches as well) failed to conceptualise the state as such (Alden & Aran 2012: 9f), we aim at developing the approach further to make it pertinent to young, non-consolidated democracies like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, which will be done through a combination of research on domestic coalitions and regime survival approaches.


The proposed project aims to advance three strands of research: 1) domestic preference formation in interaction between EaP countries and the EU; 2) Foreign Policy Analysis of post-Soviet states; 3) Two-Level-Game approach applied to non-consolidated democracies.


Research question:


Which patterns of domestic preferences and international negotiation formats have been and are – through the lens of the Two-Level-Game Approach – decisive for explaining differences in progress, stagnation or setbacks within the cooperation between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova since the launch of Eastern Partnership in 2009?




Qualitative: The project employs predominantly qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, including semi-structured expert interviews (Aberbach & Rockman 2002; Dexter 2006; Bogner et al. 2014; Kaiser 2014) and content analysis of official documents and media publications (Mason 2002). Focus groups (Krueger & Casey 2015) with relevant stakeholders order to analyse the role of Civil Society Actors in the foreign policy formation are proposed as well. For analysing the influence and preferences of Think Tanks, as a specific group of actors aiming at promoting a certain foreign policy stance, perception analysis method (Chaban et al. 2006), previously tested in the study of EU perceptions in Ukraine (Axyonova & Zubko 2017, forthcoming), is additionally considered.


Quantitative. The descriptive statistics, e.g. results of opinion polls, balances of trade, EU-subsidies etc., serves as quantitative method.



Implementing team:


Andrea Gawrich, Dr., Professor, the Institute of Political Science, Justus Liebig University

Lusine Badalyan, Dr., post-PhD Researcher, the Institute of Political Science, Justus Liebig University

Annemarie Ickler, Research assistant, PhD candidate

Denis Cenusa, Research assistant, PhD candidate

Vera Axyonova, Dr. (associated researcher)


Implementing partner:


Rainer Schweickert, Dr., Kiel Institute for the World Economy


Financing institution:


German Research Foundation (DFG)




February, 14-16, 2019, Southern Political Science Association (SPSA), ETH Zürich, academic paper presentation: “The Politics of (Non-)Compliance:
When Do Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia Execute the ECtHR’s Judgments and Why?”
, delivered by Lusine Badalyan, Post-PhD Researcher.


September 11-14, 2019, European Conference on International Relations (EISA) Annual Conference, Sofia, presentation of the research project: “When do governments shift the course of their foreign policy, to what extent and why? Implications from the EU's Eastern Neighboring Countries”, delivered by Annemarie Ickler, Research assistant.

July 4-6, 2019, European Conference on Politics & Gender (ECPG), presentation of the academic paper authored by Andrea Gawrich, Vera Axyonova and Denis Cenusa: “LGBT Rights in the Context of EU Cooperation: Analysing Anti-Discrimination Reforms in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood”, delivered by Denis Cenusa, PhD candidate.


June 6-7, 2019, Human Rights Conference, Leiden University, the Hague, research project by Lusine Badalyan and Andrea Gawrich: “The Politics of (Non-)Compliance:
When Do Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia Execute the ECtHR’s Judgments and Why?”
, delivered by Lusine Badalyan, Post-PhD Researcher.





July 2, 2019, Giessen, DFG Project Seminar: “Overview of the EaP_Diplo Project”, speakers: Professor Andrea Gawrich and Lusine Badalyan, JLU University, University of Kiel.


December 10, 2019, Giessen, DFG Workshop: “Buffers and Bridges: The Dynamics of Foreign Policy in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova”, speakers: Prof. Dr. Valeria Korablyova, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (Ukraine), Dr. Bidzina Lebanidze, Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) and Denis Cenusa, PhD candidate, Justus-Liebig University (Germany).


November 22-23, 2018, University of Minho, Research Center in Political Sciences, “EU governance of Migration in times of crises: visa regimes in the European neighborhood”, presentation entitled “The EU’s visa policy through the lenses of Two-Level-Game Approach: the case of anti-discrimination law in Moldova”, delivered by Denis Cenusa, PhD candidate


Academic papers:


Vera Axyonova, Denis Cenusa and Andrea Gawrich: “LGBT Rights in the Context of EU Cooperation: Analysing Anti-Discrimination Reforms in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood”, submitted (19 June 2019), reviewed (December 2, 2019) and prepared for re-submission to East European Politics & Societies and Cultures Journal.


PhDs research projects:


Annemarie Ickler, Research assistant, PhD candidate, doctoral research entitled (working title):“Labor policies in the post-Soviet space - a comparison of Georgia and Moldova”.


Denis Cenusa, Research assistant, PhD candidate, doctoral research entitled (working title):“The EU’s resilience building in the Eastern neighbourhood:
Domestic behaviourism in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine”.



Policy related conferences:


February 14-16, 2020, Youth Münich Security Conference, EuropaNova, Munich, Germany, contribution to the panel: “EEAS and Neighborhood Policies”, “New Policy Roadmaps for the EU”, speeches delivered by Denis Cenusa, PhD candidate.


October 21-23, 2019, Eastern Partnership Reflection Forum, Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe, Institute for European Policies and Reforms, Expert-Grup Independent Think-Tank, Chisinau, Moldova, contribution to the panel “The more the merrier? Intertwined cooperation between the EU and “the others” in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus”, speeches delivered by Denis Cenusa, PhD candidate.


October-November 2019, Warsaw, Prague, Visgrad Initiative, participation in the policy designing and forecasting “Eastern Partnership 2030”, participation by Denis Cenusa, PhD candidate.


November 13-15, 2019, Kyiv, Association Exchange Forum,  3rd Association Exchange Forum, contribution to the panel: “DCFTAs in Action: From Effects of the Economic Integration by now to Further Ambitions” and “Energy Security and Integration into the EU Energy Markets”, speeches delivered by Denis Cenusa, PhD candidate.


February 28-March 1, 2019, Brussels, Association Monitoring Workshop, contribution to the panel: “The Association policy: improving the imperfect framework to maintain and deliver reforms”, speeches delivered by Denis Cenusa, PhD candidate.