Russia–European Union relations

Russia–European Union relations
Euro-Russian relations
Map indicating locations of EU and Russia

European Union


Russia–European Union relations are the international relations between the supranational European Union (EU) and its largest bordering state, Russia, to the east. The relations of individual member states of the European Union and Russia vary, though a 1990s common foreign policy outline towards Russia was the first such EU foreign policy agreed. Furthermore, four European Union-Russia Common Spaces are agreed as a framework for establishing better relations.


Current relations

After the Russia–Ukraine gas dispute of 2009 the reputation of Russia as a gas supplier had been damaged.[1] After a deal was struck between Ukraine and the EU on 23 March 2009 to upgrade Ukraine's gas pipelines[2][3] Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin threatened to review Russia's relations with the EU. "If Russia’s interests are ignored, we will also have to start reviewing the fundamentals of our relations", Putin stated.[4] According to Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko the plan appeared to draw Ukraine legally closer to the European Union and might harm Moscow's interests.[3] The Russian Foreign Ministry called the deal "an unfriendly act" (on March 26, 2009).[5]

Professor Irina Busygina of the Moscow State Institution for Foreign Relations has said that Russia has better relations with certain leaders of some EU countries than with the EU as a whole because the EU has no prospect of a common foreign policy.[6]


The EU is Russia's largest trading partner by far with the EU accounting for 52.3% of all foreign Russian trade in 2008 and 75% of foreign direct investment (FDI) stocks in Russia also come from the EU. The EU exported €105 billion of goods to Russia in 2008 and Russia exported €173,2 billion to the EU. 68.2% of Russian exports to the EU are accounted for by energy and fuel supplies. For details on other trade, see the table below;[7]

Direction of trade Goods Services FDI
EU to Russia €105 billion €18 billion €17 billion
Russia to EU €173,2 billion €11,5 billion €1 billion

Russia is currently negotiating to join World Trade Organisation (WTO) while the EU is already a member as a single block and requires membership for all states negotiating to join the EU. The EU and Russia are currently implementing the common spaces (see below) and negotiation to replace the current Partnership and Co-operation Agreement to strengthen bilateral trade.[7]



The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast has, since 2004, been surrounded on land by EU members. As a result the Oblast has been isolated from the rest of the federation due to stricter border controls. Stricter border controls had to be brought in when Poland and Lithuania joined the EU; they had to improve their external borders before entry and further before they joined the Schengen Area. The new difficulties for Russians in Kaliningrad to reach the rest of Russia is a small source of tension.

In July 2011 the European Commission put forward proposals to classify the whole of Kaliningrad as a border area. This would allow Poland and Lithuania to issue special permit for Kaliningrad residents to pass through those two countries without requiring a Schengen visa.[8]


Russia has a significant role in the European energy sector as the largest exporter of oil and natural gas to the EU. In 2007, the EU imported from Russia 185 million tonnes of crude oil, which accounted for 32.6% of total oil import, and 100.7 million tonnes of oil equivalent of natural gas, which accounted 38.7% of total gas import.[9]

Siberian flights

There have been agreements on other matters such as withdrawal of taxes on EU flights overflying Siberia.

Polish meat

Further problems include a ban by Russia on Polish meat exports (due to allegations of low quality and unsafe meat exported from the country[10]), which caused Poland to veto proposed EU-Russia pacts issues such as energy and migration; an oil blockade on Lithuania; and concerns by Latvia and Poland on the Nord Stream pipeline.[11] In 2007 Polish meat was allowed to be exported into Russia.

Partnership and Co-operation Agreement

The Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA), in force since December 1997, provides a political, economic and cultural framework for relations between Russia and the EU. It is primarily concerned with promoting trade, investment and harmonious economic relations. Russian exports to the EU have very few restrictions, except for the steel sector. A replacement agreement has been under negotiations since 2008 and following that and WTO entry, a more detail agreement will be negotiated.

The Four Common Spaces

When the European Union unveiled its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), Russia chose not to join and aspires to be an "equal partner" of the EU (as opposed to the "junior partnership" that Russia sees in the ENP). Consequently, Russia and the European Union agreed to create four Common Spaces for cooperation in different spheres. In practice there are no substantial differences (besides naming) between the sum of these agreements and the ENP Action Plans (adopted jointly by the EU and its ENP partner states). In both cases the final agreement is based on provisions from the EU acquis communautaire and is jointly discussed and adopted. For this reason, the Common Spaces receive funding from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which also funds the ENP.

At the St. Petersburg Summit in May 2003, the EU and Russia agreed to reinforce their co-operation by creating, in the long term, four common spaces in the framework of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1997: a common economic space; a common space of freedom, security and justice; a space of co-operation in the field of external security; and a space of research, education, and cultural exchange.

The Moscow Summit in May 2005 adopted a single package of Road Maps for the creation of the four Common Spaces. These expand on the ongoing cooperation as described above, set out further specific objectives, and determine the actions necessary to make the common spaces a reality. They thereby determine the agenda for co-operation between the EU and Russia for the medium-term.

The London Summit in October 2005 focused on the practical implementation of the Road Maps for the four Common Spaces.

Common Economic Space

The objective of the common economic space is to create an open and integrated market between the EU and Russia. This space is intended to remove barriers to trade and investment and promote reforms and competitiveness, based on the principles of non-discrimination, transparency, and good governance.

Among the wide range of actions foreseen, a number of new dialogues are to be launched. Cooperation will be stepped up on regulatory policy, investment issues, competition, financial services, telecommunications, transport, energy, space activities and space launching, etc. Environment including nuclear safety and the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol also figure prominently.

Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice

Work on this space has already made a big step forward with the conclusion of negotiations on the Visa Facilitation and the Readmission Agreements. Both the EU and Russia are in the process of ratifying these agreements. The visa dialogue will continue with a view to examine the conditions for a mutual visa-free travel regime as a long-term perspective. Cooperation on combating terrorism and other forms of international illegal activities such as money laundering, fight against drugs and trafficking in human beings will continue as well as on document security through the introduction of biometric features in a range of identity documents. The EU support to border management and reform of the Russian judiciary system are among the highlights of this space.

With a view to contributing to the concrete implementation of the road map, the Justice and Home Affairs PPC met on 13 October 2005 and agreed to organise clusters of conferences and seminars, bringing together experts and practitioners on counter-terrorism, cyber-crime, document security and judicial cooperation. There was also agreement about developing greater cooperation between the European Border Agency (FRONTEX) and the Federal Border Security Service of Russia.

Common Space on External Security

The road map underlines the shared responsibility of the parties for an international order based on effective multilateralism, their support for the central role of the UN, and for the effectiveness in particular of the OSCE and the Council of Europe. The parties will strengthen their cooperation on security and crisis management in order to address global and regional challenges and key threats, notably terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They will give particular attention to securing stability in the regions adjacent to Russian and EU borders (the "frozen conflicts" in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh).

EU activities in this area are done in the framework of its Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Common Space on Research, Education, Culture

This space builds on the long-standing relations with Russia through its participation in EU Research and Development activities and the 6th FPRD in particular, and under the TEMPUS programme. It aims at capitalising on the strength of the EU and Russian research communities and cultural and intellectual heritage by reinforcing links between research and innovation and closer cooperation on education such as through convergence of university curricula and qualifications. It also lays a firm basis for cooperation in the cultural field. A European Studies Institute co-financed by both sides will be set up in Moscow for the start of the academic year 2006/7.

EU membership

Among the most vocal supporters of Russian membership of the EU has been Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In an article published to Italian media on 26 May 2002, he said that the next step in Russia's growing integration with the West should be EU membership.[12] On 17 November 2005, he commented in regards to the prospect of such a membership that he is "convinced that even if it is a dream ... it is not too distant a dream and I think it will happen one day."[13] Berlusconi has made similar comments on other occasions as well.[14] More recently, in October 2008, he said "I consider Russia to be a Western country and my plan is for the Russian Federation to be able to become a member of the European Union in the coming years" and stated that he had this vision for years.[15]

Russian permanent representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov commented on this by saying that Russia has no plans of joining the EU.[16] Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said that Russia joining the EU would not be in the interests of either Russia or the EU, although he advocated close integration in various dimensions including establishment of four common spaces between Russia and the EU, including united economic, educational and scientific spaces as it was declared in the agreement in 2003.[17][18][19][20]

At present, the prospect of Russia joining the EU any time in the near future is slim. Analysts have commented that Russia is "decades away" from qualifying for EU membership.[21] Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has also said that though Russia must "find its place both in NATO, and, in the longer term, in the European Union, and if conditions are created for this to happen" that such a thing is not economically feasible in the near future.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Russia and Ukraine sign gas deal, BBC News (19 January 2009)
  2. ^ EU moves to secure Ukrainian gas, BBC News (23 March 2009)
  3. ^ a b Russia suspicious of EU-Ukraine gas "master plan", Reuters (March 23, 2009)
  4. ^ Putin threatens to review relations with EU, Russia Today (23 March 2009)
  5. ^ Russia raps EU over Ukraine gas talks , Reuters (March 26, 2009)
  6. ^ Analysis: Deauville summit BBC, 19 October 2010
  7. ^ a b EU-Russia bilateral trade relations, European Commission
  8. ^ Pop, Valentina (29 July 2011) EU to ease travel for residents of Russian enclave, EU Observer
  9. ^ (PDF) Energy Dialogue EU–Russia. The Tenth Progress Report.. European Commission. November 2009. pp. 4–6. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  10. ^ Почему Россия отказывается от польского мяса? (Russian)
  11. ^ EU and Russia tackle thorny issues at Samara summit 19/05/07
  12. ^ EU membership next step for Russia after NATO, Daily Times, 28 May 2002
  13. ^ Italian PM Berlusconi confident Russia will join EU, EUbusiness, 17 November 2005
  14. ^ Do Not Adjust Your Sets, TIME Europe Magazine, 7 July 2003
  15. ^ Berlusconi says he wants Russia to join the EU
  16. ^ Russia not planning to join EU
  17. ^ (Russian)"Four spaces" of Russia and European Union, "Special opinion" program on Russian Radio
  18. ^ (Russian)Four spaces, Rossiyskaya newspaper
  19. ^ (Russian)Interview of official Ambassador of Russian Foreign Ministry on relations with the EU
  20. ^ (Russian)Four spaces, TKS
  21. ^ Michael A. McFaul, West or East for Russia?, The Washington Post, 9 June 2001
  22. ^ Schroeder says Russia must find place in NATO, EU

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