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Russia and EU External Relations: in from the cold or out into nothing?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Angela Ward.

There will be a buffet lunch available outside B16 from 12.45 pm

Gas stoppages, neighbouring country invasions, strange poisonings, trade disputes - the relationships of the EU with Russia remain uneasy. The seminar will examine the structure and contents in the legal framework of the EU relations with Russia and attempt a few predictions of its possible future development.


EU-Russia relations have been experiencing several up and down periods over the last two decades. However, they have never been at such a low ebb as they are today. The momentum was lost in 2007, a good while before the Russia- Georgia military conflict in August 2008 and the Russia- Ukraine gas dispute in January 2009. The terms that could most eloquently characterize present day relations between the EU and Russia are a “quandary” and “helplessness”. Talks on a new bilateral agreement go slowly, since both sides pursue different visions of what it should be about. If one looks at the actual priority agendas of Russia and the EU, especially in the field of external relations, one can conclude that both sides came to the point of giving up on their relationship.

These bilateral relations remain contradictory and difficult. Such accounts include legacies of the Cold War, which saw distrust, ambiguity over common strategic goals that continue to surface in the contemporary period, as well as asymmetry in levels of economic development. In less than two decades the relationship between the EU and Russia has transformed from exclusively bilateral relations between some of the European Community’s members and the USSR , to a partnership between the EU and Russia. These actors now cooperate and establish new realities that were inconceivable during the Cold War. Russia has been the subject of many fundamental policy documents, policy implementation instruments and internal discussions over the past ten years, and the density and frequency of bilateral dialogue between Russia and the EU is remarkable.

The instruments of collaboration are just as numerous and wide-reaching, causing a degree of confusion. Relations between the EU and Russia are burdened with numerous problematic questions. These result from the position and ambitions of the two entities as significant powers, the interdependence between the two and the number and complexity of issues involved.

In the long run a lasting strategic partnership with Russia would imply that this country moves towards a model of democracy similar to that of the EU. As indicated above, this is not the way Russia is going. Given the present situation, where the elites of Russia and the European Union have different values and views, attempts to push forward specific elements of integration could probably only serve to aggravate a negative atmosphere, without excluding even a military altercation at some point within the next two decades.


Demetrius A. Floudas has lived and worked in Moscow for six years. He served as the Team Leader of the EU Project for Accession of the Russian Federation to the World Trade Organisation. He is a Visiting Professor at the Russian Institute for the Development of Financial Markets and has been widely quoted in the media on matters of Foreign Affairs.

This talk is part of the CELS lunchtime seminars series.

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