EU relations with Russia

The Russian Federation's role in the Ukraine conflict has seriously affected EU-Russia relations. Consequently, some of the activities outlined below are at a halt and sanctions have been adopted.

Russia is the EU's biggest neighbour and its third biggest trading partner. Supplies of oil and gas make up a large proportion of the country's exports to Europe.

Legal basis for cooperation

The current basis for cooperation is the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).

Negotiations on a new EU-Russia Agreement were launched at the 2008 Khanty-Mansiysk summit. The new agreement should:

  • provide a more comprehensive framework for EU-Russia relations, reflecting increased cooperation since the early 1990s
  • include substantive, legally binding commitments in all areas of the partnership, including political dialogue, freedom, security & justice, economic cooperation, research, education & culture, trade, investment and energy.

Common spaces

Ongoing EU-Russia cooperation covers 4 policy areas – referred to as common spaces:

  • economy & the environment
  • freedom, security & justice
  • external security ­
  • research & education, including cultural aspects.

Partnership for Modernisation

Established following the 2010 Rostov Summit, the Partnership for Modernisation covers all aspects of moderni­sation – economic, technical (including standards and regulations), the rule of law, and the functioning of the judiciary. It has become a focal point for cooperation, reinforcing dialogue initiated in the context of the common spaces. For details, see the latest progress report .

Recent Partnership initiatives include:

  • rule of law projects (setting up an appeal system within the Russian judicial system; anti-corruption measures)
  • fostering civil society in Russia
  • economic and technical modernisation.

International cooperation

The EU and Russia have a long record of cooperation on issues of bilateral and international concern including climate change, drug and human trafficking, organized crime, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, the Middle East peace process, and Iran.


In response to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and continuing destabilisation of Ukraine - including aggression by Russian armed forces on Ukrainian soil - the EU has suspended talks on visas and a new EU-Russia agreement. Most EU-Russia cooperation programmes have been suspended.

Targeted measures have been taken against Russia in areas including:

  • access to capital markets,
  • defence
  • dual-use goods
  • sensitive technologies (including those in the energy sector).

The European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have suspended the signing of new financing operations in Russia.

A trade and investment ban is now in force for Crimea/Sevastopol, bolstering measures taken to mark the EU's non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea. Furthermore, a number of individuals and bodies in Russia and Ukraine are subject to travel bans, and their assets have been frozen.

Russia has taken retaliatory measures, including a ban on the import of certain foods from the EU and several non-EU countries.

For further details of the impact of the Ukraine conflict on EU-Russia relations, including sanctions, see Russia-Ukraine , EU sanctions.

EU-Russia Common Spaces

At the St. Petersburg Summit in May 2003, the EU and Russia agreed to reinforce their cooperation by creating in the long term four ‘common spaces’ in the framework of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and on the basis of common values and shared interests. These cover the following issues:

  1. The Common Economic Space, covering economic issues and the environment
  2. The Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice;
  3. The Common Space of External Security, including crisis management and non-proliferation;
  4. The Common Space of Research and Education, Including cultural aspects.

The Moscow Summit in May 2005 agreed developed the instruments to put these common spaces into effect. These “road maps” set out specific objectives, and specify the actions required.


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Common economic space

The EU and Russia agreed at the St. Petersburg Summit in May 2003 to create in the long-term a ‘Common Economic Space’. A road map agreed in 2005 sets out objectives and areas for cooperation for the short and medium-term. Fourteen dialogues between the EU and Russia covering most economic sectors have so far been established. They include a number of regulatory dialogues which aim at promoting the gradual approximation of legislation. Three meetings of the EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Councils at ministerial level have been held on environment, transport and energy in 2006. This framework is complemented by sectoral agreements between both sides.


Energy is a very important element in the EU-Russia relationship. This relationship can be best characterised as mutual interdependence of supply, demand, investment and know-how.

Russia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of natural gas and, together with Saudi Arabia, also the largest producer and exporter of oil. Russia possesses more than 20% of the world’s known gas reserves and 5% of proven oil reserves. The share of the energy and metals sector in the Russian economy is around 20% while it employs only 2% of the total labour force.

There is a strong mutual interest in a closer energy partnership between the EU and Russia – one that offers security and predictability for both sides. The energy that the EU buys from Russia contributes very significantly to Russia's current economic growth and the improved living conditions of its population. In turn, the stable flow of reasonably priced energy remains an important motor for Europe's economic growth. Ultimately, our citizens and businesses alike need to be provided with safe, reasonably priced energy.

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Freedom, security and justice

The EU and Russia agreed at the St. Petersburg Summit of May 2003 to create in the long-term a ‘Common Space on Freedom, Security and Justice’. A road map agreed in 2005 sets out the objectives and areas for cooperation in the short and medium term. Its gradual development takes place in the framework of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Biannual meetings of the EU Troika (EU Presidency together with incoming Presidency, Council and Commission) with the Russian counterparts at ministerial level monitor the overall implementation of this Common Space.

EU Policy Aims

Cooperation in this area has become a key component in the development of a strategic partnership with Russia. The scope of our cooperation has gained tremendous importance with the expansion of our common borders after the last enlargements of the EU. Our cooperation contributes to the objective of building a new Europe without dividing lines and facilitating travel between all Europeans while creating conditions for effectively fighting illegal migration. Moreover, the EU has a considerable interest in strengthening cooperation with Russia by jointly addressing common challenges such as organised crime, terrorism and other illegal activities of cross-border nature. Our cooperation, carried out on the basis of common values such as democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, must reflect the necessary balance between Security, on the one hand, and Justice and Freedom, on the other.

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Human Rights

With democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law an essential element of EU-Russia relations, it is only natural that these issues are regularly discussed at all levels.

In 2005 regular, six-monthly EU-Russia human rights consultations were established. They have provided for a substantial dialogue on human rights issues in Russia and the EU and on EU-Russian cooperation on human rights issues in international fora. The EU also maintains a regular dialogue with both Russian and international NGOs on human rights issues.

Issues that the EU raises with Russia in the human rights consultations include: the human rights situation in Chechnya and the rest of the North Caucasus, including torture and ill-treatment; freedom of expression and assembly, including freedom of the media; the situation of civil society in Russia, notably in light of the laws on NGOs and extremist activities; the functioning of the judiciary, including independence issues; the observation of human rights standards by law enforcement officials; racism and xenophobia; legislation relating to elections. For its part the Russian side raises matters of concern to it in developments inside the EU.

The EU has supported the development of democracy, the protection of human rights and the development of a healthy civil society in Russia notably through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). This has enabled the EU to work with NGOs and partners as for example the Council of Europe in fields such as: penal reform; improving the capacity of lawyers and law enforcement officials to apply the European Convention on Human Rights; combating human rights violations in the North Caucasus; human rights of conscripts in the armed forces; promoting children’s rights; promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.

External security

The EU and Russia have agreed to reinforce their cooperation in the area of external security as they both have a particular responsibility for security and stability on the European continent and beyond.

EU Policy Aims

There are 5 priority areas for enhancing EU-Russia cooperation:

  • Strengthening dialogue and cooperation on the international scene
  • The fight against terrorism
  • Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, strengthening export control regimes and disarmament
  • Cooperation in crisis management
  • Cooperation in the field of civil protection

EU Strategy

The EU and Russia work to strengthen the roles of the United Nations, OSCE and Council of Europe (CoE) in building an international order based on effective multilateralism. An extensive and ever more operational political dialogue characterises EU-Russia relations (see above).

The EU has a strong interest in engaging Russia in strengthening stability on the European continent, notably in regions adjacent to EU and Russian borders – our common neighbourhood. The regional conflicts in Moldova (Transnistria) and the South Caucasus (Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh) are regularly discussed. The EU also stresses the importance of promoting democracy in Belarus. These discussions simultaneously grant both partners the opportunity to voice a frank exchange of views regarding the situation in the common neighbourhood and a platform to seek common solutions.

The EU and Russia seek to strengthen their cooperation in all relevant international and regional fora in the fight against terrorism, notably by promoting and developing the relevant conventions and instruments in the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe. The EU in particular seeks an early finalisation of the UN Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism.

In the area of non-proliferation, export controls and disarmament, a major objective of the EU and Russia is to promote the universal adherence to and greater effectiveness of the relevant international instruments. A particular EU concern at present is to seek Russian support for the accession of all EU Member States to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Russia is seeking to join the Australia Group (Biological and Chemical Weapons Control).

Research and development, education, culture

The EU and Russia have a strong interest to work together to foster political, social and economic stability in Russia, in the region and worldwide. Cooperation in research and development, education and culture should contribute to this objective.

EU Policy Aims

Increased cooperation in the field of research and development, education and culture will contribute to increased cooperation between institutions and people working on common challenges, better knowledge of differing history and culture and more contacts among people, particularly the young.

EU Strategy

At the St. Petersburg Summit in May 2003, the EU and Russia agreed to set up a‘Common Space of Research and Education, Including Cultural Aspects’.

In the area of research and development the objective is to enhance EU-Russia cooperation in mutually agreed priority fields and create favourable conditions, corresponding to the interests of both parties, aimed at

  • structuring a knowledge-based society in the EU and Russia;
  • promoting a high rate of competitiveness and economic growth by modernization of the national economies and implementation of advanced scientific achievements;
  • strengthening and optimizing the links between research and innovation;
  • maintaining small and medium size entrepreneurship in the field of research and innovation.

In the area of education the objective is to encourage integration and closer cooperation within the framework of the new European Higher Education Area in accordance with the main provisions of the Bologna Process, aiming in particular at:

  • adopting comparable higher education degrees;
  • adopting a two-tier “bachelor-master” and as soon as possible a three-tier “bachelor-master-doctorate” education system;
  • introducing a credit system, aimed at practicing the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) to check the volume of the taught subjects;
  • promoting academic mobility;
  • cooperating in the provision of learning quality;
  • introducing integrated curricula at higher education institutions;
  • promoting life-long learning;
  • modifying the management of higher education institutions with a view to adapting students learning to labour market changes;
  • increasing the attractiveness of the higher education systems in Russia and in the EU.

In the area of culture there are three objectives:

  • to promote a structured approach to cultural cooperation between the enlarged EU and Russia, to foster the creativity and mobility of artists, public access to culture, the dissemination of art and culture, inter-cultural dialogue and knowledge of the history and cultural heritage of the peoples of Europe.
  • to strengthen and enhance the European identity on the basis of common values, including freedom of expression, democratic functioning of the media, respect of human rights including the rights of persons belonging to minorities and promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity as a basis of vitality of civil society in Europe without dividing lines.
  • to develop cooperation between the cultural industries of the EU and Russia in order to increase both their cultural and economic impact.

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