The EU's Russia policy: Five guiding principles

Briefing 18-10-2016

While EU-Russia relations had long been difficult, in 2013 they took an abrupt turn for the worse, after Ukraine signed an association agreement with the EU, and Russia responded with attacks on its former ally in spring 2014. The latest setback came in October 2016, following Western condemnation of Russia's part in the brutal bombardment of Aleppo. In the short term, an easing of tensions seems unlikely. In March 2016, EU foreign ministers agreed with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, on five guiding principles for EU-Russia relations: full implementation of the Minsk agreements; closer ties with Russia's former Soviet neighbours; strengthening EU resilience to Russian threats; selective engagement with Russia on certain issues such as counter-terrorism; and support for people-to-people contacts. Implementing each of these principles faces major difficulties. The EU is unlikely to lift sanctions against Russia while implementation of the Minsk agreements remains stalled; the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood remains a zone of confrontation; EU security is threatened by dependence on Russian energy imports and the destabilising effects of aggressive propaganda; cooperation on international issues has become a victim of tensions between the two sides; repressive legislation obstructs EU support for Russian civil society; and EU-Russian people-to-people contacts are in decline. EU-Russia relations across these five principles are to be discussed at the 20-21 October European Council meeting.