The Bussola Institute together with the Bertelsmann Foundation and its project “Strategies for the EU Neighbourhood” held a majlis discussion on the role of the key states of Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the so-called “neighbours of the neighbours” of the EU, in the stabilisation process for the EU's eastern and southern neighbourhood. There was a particular focus on the implications of the recent announcement of the United States to withdraw its military forces from Syria and how that decision would impact EU strategy as well as the policies of the key states.



Bussola Institute


March 14, 2019





 On the 21st of February 2019, the Bussola Institute and the Bertelsmann Foundation hosted a majlis discussion focused on the topic of “Stabilising the EU’s neighbourhood: The role of key states (Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey) in the context of the United States (US) decision to withdraw from Syria.” The event was an opportunity to engage with experts on each of these states to understand the impact of a potential change in the US role in the Middle East. Speakers and discussants exchanged opinions on the varying positions and shifting interests of these key states in light of the Trump Administration’s recent announcement that it would withdraw the majority of its troops from Syria. The concluding remarks were dedicated to sharing recommendations on how the EU can help in stabilising its neighbourhood by taking these key states’ interests into account in formulating its next foreign policy steps.  


Despite the fact that the EU’s external policy objective is to establish stable systems and structures in its eastern and southern neighbourhoods, destabilising conflicts remain all across both regions. In the meantime, the governments of four states in the immediate vicinity of the EU – Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – exert significant influence on some of the countries in the EU neighbourhood and on several occasions, they have used their political power to shape political and social developments in these regions in line with their own national interest. In this context, the EU should take the interests of these four countries into account if it wants to see stable transformations in the regions from Morocco to Egypt to the Caucasus. For the EU, these so-called ‘key states’ represent “the neighbours of the neighbours.” The Majlis session began with speakers elaborating on the position of each of these key states. They addressed a large set of questions and topics including outlining the interests of these states and how they differ from EU interests, the relations between the four of them and their individual relationships with the EU and the US, the EU’s interests in the stabilisation of its direct neighbourhood, and finally what that means for the EU itself.

Find out more in the PDF of the report on this page.