The EU's Russia policy: Five guiding principles

Briefing 08-02-2018

While EU-Russia relations had long been difficult, in 2014 they took an abrupt turn for the worse, after Russia illegally annexed Crimea and fomented separatist insurgencies in eastern Ukraine. To date, little progress has been made towards ending the Ukraine conflict. In addition, new sources of tension have emerged, for example: Russia's military backing for the Assad regime in Syria, and alleged Russian interference in EU politics. In the short term, an easing of tensions seems unlikely. In March 2016, EU foreign ministers and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, agreed 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; EU-Russia cooperation on international issues has become a victim of tensions between the two sides; repressive Russian legislation obstructs EU support for Russian civil society; diplomatic tensions are mirrored by mutual suspicion between ordinary EU citizens and Russians. This is an updated edition of a briefing from October 2016.