The European Union and Russia
Russia is one of the EU’s strategic partners; the two sides are united by a comprehensive modernization partnership. A broader “New Agreement” is currently being negotiated to replace the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
At the EU-Russia Summit, St. Petersburg, 3-4 June 2012
Relations between the EU and Russia are close and cover all major fields. The aim of both German and European foreign policy is to further deepen and shape this “strategic partnership”.
Since 1997 relations have in practice been based on the “Partnership and Cooperation Agreement” (PCA) which sets out, among other things, when which government ministers of the two sides are to meet in “Permanent Partnership Councils” and what priorities should be fixed in economic and cultural relations. On this basis EU-Russian relations have intensified in many areas in recent years.
However, the PCA no longer fully represents the current state of relations. So it is to be replaced by a new, comprehensive framework agreement which has acquired the working title “New Agreement” or “Successor PCA” during the negotiating process. Negotiations on this ambitious document have been going on since 2008. It is intended to create a comprehensive, reliable, long-term basis for political, economic, trade, scientific and cultural relations. The talks are already well advanced, but precisely because it is such an important agreement, both sides prefer to be careful rather than hasty.
Both sides hope that Russia’s accession to the WTO, which was ratified by Russia in the summer of 2012, will provide vital new impetus for the negotiations, especially in the chapter on trade.
At the EU-Russia Summit in May 2005, building on the PCA, the “Four Common Spaces” were adopted. These cover (a) the Common Economic Space, (b) cooperation in the areas of freedom, security and justice, (c) external security and (d) research, education and culture. Specific cooperation projects were agreed for these areas and are being implemented on a step-by-step basis.
Regular meetings make for progress in cooperation
EU-Russia Summits normally take place twice a year. The two sides last convened in St. Petersburg in June 2012. International issues of interest to both sides are discussed and new initiatives launched, such as the modernization partnership between the EU and Russia in 2010. This partnership is intended to strengthen cooperation on economic and infrastructure modernization projects, but also on rule of law, political and civil society questions. Coordinators on both sides prepare specific projects to this end, sometimes picking up on the experiences of individual member states – particularly Germany, which has had this kind of partnership with Russia since 2008 and has been extending it ever since.
The EU is also in regular dialogue with Russia on the difficult issues of human rights and the rule of law, conducting biannual EU-Russia human rights consultations. These cover topics such as freedom of opinion and assembly, freedom of the media, relevant pieces of draft legislation, human rights protection in connection with combating terrorism, torture and abuse, respect for the rule of law and the situation in the Northern Caucasus, as well as cooperation in UN bodies and in the Council of Europe, including the reform of the European Court of Human Rights. At Summits, too, we do not shy away from these sometimes controversial issues. It is the EU’s conviction that progress can only be made through constant, constructive dialogue.
A Visa Facilitation Agreement and a Readmission Agreement have been in force between the EU and Russia since June 2007. These regulate matters such as exemptions from visa requirements or simplified procedures for visa applications by specific groups of persons from the Schengen States and Russia.
In the long term, both the EU and Russia are hoping to drop visa requirements altogether in order to further promote interpersonal contacts. At the end of 2011, the two sides agreed on a list of “common steps” to this end. These relate above all to immigration and security policy aspects. It is not yet possible to say when all the conditions for visa-free travel will be put into place by the two sides.
The EU is Russia’s most important trading partner by far. Roughly half of Russia’s entire volume of foreign trade is trade with the EU. Trade relations in the energy sector are especially important for both sides: about 20 percent of the EU’s oil needs and around 45 percent of its gas requirements are met by Russia, and the trend is upwards. The EU’s main exports to Russia are machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, agricultural products and textiles.
Now that Russia has joined the WTO, we can expect trade relations between the EU and Russia to be given fresh impetus, not least because of the obligation to eliminate trade barriers.
Last updated 23.11.2012