EU-Russia relations have evolved from pragmatic but stagnating relations, in the framework of a Strategic Partnership, to a confrontation. While hopes for a cooperative relationship started dwindling even earlier, the crisis over Ukraine, which erupted in 2014, was an unexpected game changer. It has complicated relations between Moscow and Brussels in several ways:

  1. The Ukraine crisis has intertwined EU-Russia relations with larger questions of international security and relations of power. The latter are now openly acknowledged by both parties to be at the centre of relations.
  2. Existing negative narratives on both sides and incompatible perceptions have been reinforced by developments linked to Ukraine.
  3. Developments over Ukraine and diametrically opposed perceptions on both sides have confirmed a logic of competition, which originated well before the crisis. This logic of competition has further escalated over sanctions and retaliation measures.
  4. The confrontation over Ukraine has given a final blow to trust, which had been dwindling for years. On the other hand it should also be acknowledged that the crisis has broken certain taboos and made it possible to talk about differences more openly.

Any normalization and return to cooperation will inevitably be long term, slow and difficult. It will require trust-building and dialogue. Steps forward will only be possible in case of a successful implementation of the Minsk II agreement and the lifting of sanctions. Any reconciliation between Russia and the EU will depend on the broader international context, not least current developments in Syria. Finally the internal evolution in all countries concerned will equally be determining: in the EU (Member States), in Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union, as well as in Ukraine.


  1. Mutual energy interdependence should be recognized as economically sensible and beneficial for both partners.
  2. A reasonable degree of diversification should be maintained by both sides through additional pipelines, contracts and LNG facilities.
  3. While it is impossible to eradicate geopolitical approaches, market logics should become dominant in EU-Russian energy relations.
  4. In order to achieve this the parties should agree that their mutual interdependence is beneficial for both sides but that it has to be balanced by reasonable diversification.
  5. Differences in how the EU and Russia address energy cooperation should be openly addressed between the two parties.
  6. This difference in perception should not be a barrier for developing practical cooperation.
  7. The 2013 Roadmap of EU-Russian Energy Cooperation is a good example of how these differences can be reconciled at the level of practical cooperation, bylaws and projects. It should be used as a guideline for cooperation.
  8. This small-scale reconciliation creates trust and should be used to move the EURussian energy partnership forward.
  9. EU-Russian energy discussions at the level of lower- and medium level officials should be relaunched.
  10. In the case of gas transit and trade they can also involve Ukrainian (as well as other transit countries’) officials.
  11. As sanctions are likely to be maintained for some time to come, their application should be clarified so as to avoid any grey area. The EU side can clarify what services / companies are affected as well as the limits of retroactive effect. Russia, for its part, should be clear about the ownership structure of the companies so as to exclude any risk that some of the people / companies that are in the sanctioned list deal in disguise with EU entities, exposing them to the threat of sanctions’ violation.
  12. The use of international organisations in EU-Russian energy relations should be encouraged.
  13. The WTO provides a long-needed venue for dispute-resolution in EU-Russian trade relations (particularly in energy).
  14. The Energy Charter and its Treaty can provide the minimum level-playing field. Changes of these multilateral frameworks without the participation of the other party are to be avoided whenever possible.
  15. Priority should be given to specific cooperative projects rather than to large-scale energy market formation, which is impossible in the current situation characterized by a lack of trust.
  16. Transit countries (especially Ukraine) should be involved in these projects to foster cooperation and lock all the partners into mutually beneficial relations.
  17. Small-scale projects in energy efficiency and climate-change, which contribute to mutual trust and socialization through a wide interaction of small and medium companies, should be encouraged.
  18. A combination of long-term thinking and short-term practical/technical accommodations seems to be the best approach to establishing a foundation for improved relations in the common neighbourhood.
  19. A format for discussions, with the goal of establishing an institutional framework to consider shared long-term thinking about relations in the region, should be established bilaterally between the EU and Russia.
  20. Trilateral or regional discussions involving the EU, Russia, and appropriate neighbouring countries should be established to discuss particular sectoral or technical issues, as required by the parties.
  21. Some sectoral/technical issues may more appropriately be addressed between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union;
  22. Efforts should be made to defuse inflammatory rhetoric and to move toward a framework of pragmatic cooperation to govern discourse about neighbourhood relations.
  23. Each side should seek to unilaterally reduce accusations or attribution of motivations to the other party.
  24. A mutually-agreed and mutually-supported Reconciliation Council of participants from Russia and the EU, involving academics, analysts, and independent actors, should be organized to articulate the potential basis for a shared narrative, using concepts such as those suggested above as a starting point. The Council should also include individuals independent of both parties (and possibly from outside the region).
  25. Rather than censuring past actions, the Council should identify positive practical measures to realize the above principles.
  26. The EU and Russia should jointly and separately seriously consider committing to implementing the recommendations of the Reconciliation Council and discuss the most effective way for realizing such implementation:
  27. Relations should be initiated between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, subject to some agreements on parameters of the relations.
  28. Whenever bilateral negotiations between the EU or Russia/EAEU and a common neighbour may impact on the third party, trilateral consultations should be considered. Self-evidently trilateral consultations do not imply a right to veto.
  29.  A prerequisite for initiating such relations would be that neither party uses these relations as a means to rhetorically or in terms of policy to influence the choice of other countries that remain outside of both unions or express preference for membership in one or the other of the two unions.
  30. Relations should, in the first instance, be focused on technical issues to avoid politicization.
  31. The goal of an integrated economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok should be reaffirmed and appropriate measures taken to promote it. Countries in the common neighbourhood should be included.
  32. Both sides should redouble their efforts to realize the provisions of the Minsk II agreement to facilitate the lifting of trade sanctions and counter-sanctions.
  33. A joint study or studies should be commissioned to clarify the relative benefits of certain types of trade facilitation and relaxation of trade barriers, including creation of a free trade areas between the EU and EAEU; the joint study should develop particular recommendations for actions and timelines that would be mutually beneficial. Similar studies could be commissioned relating to the impact of other types of free trade arrangements being implemented or proposed involving countries in the common neighbourhood that are not part of the EU and EAEU.
  34. The goal of enhanced economic integration should be promoted by work at all levels, depending on competencies of particular organs, i.e. between the European Union and the Russian Federation, where appropriate; and between the EU and EAEU, where transfer of competencies requires this.
  35. Countries that remain outside of both customs unions (the EU and EAEU) should be included to the greatest extent possible in measures to promote regional trade, trade facilitation, and other steps along the way to a potential long-term goal of continental economic integration; possible benefits of an EU-EAEU trade agreement for the countries outside both agreements should be explored.
  36. An incremental approach should be taken, with a first focus on trade facilitation, then, as appropriate attention to other issues such as the constructive interaction of rules of origin, mutual recognition of standards, and tariff as well as non-tariff barriers.
  37. In the longer term effective collective security mechanisms need to be created on the basis of the principle of the indivisibility of European security. In the current context these plans should grow from consultations within and through a reform of the OSCE and on the basis of experience with ad hoc mechanisms such as the Normandy format.
  38. The fundamental principles of the OSCE, as laid down in the Paris Charter, should be reconfirmed and a long process of trust building should be set into motion.
  39. Both sides should refrain from actions which may undermine trust or be seen by the other as threatening, as well as from negative inimical framing of their counterpart.
  40. While the NATO-Russia Council offers few prospects as a solid security mechanism, a cautious reopening of talks on technical forms of cooperation may contribute to re-engagement and trust-building.
  41. The EU and Russia should, independently from collective defence organisations (NATO, CSTO) and collective security organisations (OSCE), enter into a dialogue on regional security matters. They should, as soon as possible, reinitiate discussions within the Common Space on External Security to identify means of cooperation in areas of shared security concern.
  42. Both sides should restrain from actions that would aggravate existing frozen conflicts in the region or that would invite spill-over into other adjacent regions. They should actively engage in consultations over these protracted conflicts in the post-Soviet space, which form a potentially destabilising factor. Initially this may work best in ad hoc constellations, such as the Normandy format, rather than at the bilateral EU-Russia level.
  43. The EU and Russia should seek greater technical cooperation and engagement in areas of common interest within diverse multilateral organisations. This is an important step in a slow process of trust-building whereby cooperation may spill over to other areas and slowly grow.
  44. Adherence to agreed-upon international human rights norms, such as the European Convention on Human Rights, should be recognized as the foundation of mutual relationship between the EU and Russia.
  45. For the existing EU-Russia Human Rights Dialogue to be viable, a new understanding of the limits, as well as opportunities, should be sought. There is an urgent need to open a dialogue between the EU and Russia on how to overcome differences in perceptions of human rights.
  46. The EU and Russia should cooperate more closely with the ECtHR, in particular in aiding enforcement of judgments.
  47. The role of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, as important venues for dialogue and dispute-resolution, should be recognized by both parties.
  48. Differences in how the EU (and its Member States) and Russia approach and implement the decisions of the ECtHR should be scrutinized and a unified approach sought.
  49. In order to strengthen the protection of human rights, in particular in countries with weak human rights record, individual states record (both within and outside the EU), should focus on strengthening the capacity of their citizens to seek redress – by providing access to necessary resources.
  50. The EU needs to recognize the role of domestic and international human rights groups, which aid citizens in seeking redress internationally, and clarify its stance on domestic policies of ECHR member states aimed at restricting the ability of these organisations to act.
  51. Future EU-Russia Human Rights Dialogue consultations should include discussion of engagement with domestic NGOs by both actors.
  52. The EU and Russia should reaffirm the importance of the human rights system both at the UN and regional levels, and should reassert that these systems provide an important foundation for future dialogue.
  53. The bilateral dialogue on human rights should be maintained, addressing both partners’ concerns.
  54. The dialogue should formulate concrete objectives, the progress of which should be assessed on a regular basis.

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