As the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine continues into 2015, the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will come to play an increasingly important role. Even before the crisis, the three Baltic states — as well as neighboring Poland — were among the most active EU member states attempting to bring Ukraine closer to the West and to challenge Russia’s role in the former Soviet periphery. Their efforts along these lines will intensify this year. Ultimately, however, more powerful players in the standoff will limit the impacts of their efforts, particularly Germany and the United States. […]
In recent years, several European countries have made it easier for their citizens living abroad to vote. Some have even created electoral districts to represent emigrants. This is a controversial issue in the countries that grant these rights and in the countries where the immigrants reside, and accusations of foreign meddling in domestic issues abound. Expatriates are becoming an increasingly attractive electoral group for some countries as nationalist parties become more popular throughout the Continent. This will create tension between the countries that impose strict immigration policies and those that want to attract the votes of their citizens living abroad. […]
Talks have begun between Russia and the pro-EU former Soviet states of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. The sides are assessing how recently signed free trade deals with the European Union will impact the countries’ trade relations with Russia. The effect will be muted for now, but the agreements could have a larger impact in the future if each country adopts them fully. Full implementation will be challenging because of Russia’s influence and political instability in the three nations.