Term Paper: Policy Brief About EU Russia Relations

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Policy Brief about EU-Russia Relations

The issue of the Russian Federation, in terms of the relations the EU has so far established, is part of the discussion. Still, the EU-Russia relations represent an important issue to be taken into account due to the influential role Russia plays in the immediate vicinity of the EU and as a global player. Under these conditions, for the EU to have a strong and positive foreign policy to the extent it envisaged throughout the policy initiatives it encouraged inside the Union, good sound relations with Russia are essential.

The present policy brief aims to place in balance the possible solutions that are at the disposal of the European and Russian diplomacy, taking into account the latest developments between the two parties. However, in order to have a comprehensive view of the possible scenarios, it is important to underline the background of the EU-Russia dialogue, as well as the major issues that marked the years of continuous negotiations especially after the signing of the 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. In this sense, the analysis will focus on major policy levels under discussion between the two sides which represent the most important aspects of the ongoing negotiations for an extension of the 1997 Agreement. Also, in the policy recommendation section, each of this level will be analyzed and possible solutions will be issued.

The main focus of the policy analysis is to try to consider the eventual background that led to the current state of affairs between the European Union and Russia. The general overview on the matter did not consider the evolution of the contacts as being neither good, nor bad, but ones that stringently require a positive move forward. In this sense, the 2007 renegotiation of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1997 is crucial for the continuing relations between the European Union and Russia. The importance of the event resides in the possible future benefits for both parts, taking into consideration that in the 1997 Agreement the results and actions had to be considered only from the perspective of a mutual gain. Thus, cooperation and dialogue must be strengthened, as well as the direct and indirect channels of collaboration on the various levels of discussion. Still, even in attaining this degree of improvement, there are different roads to take. Thus, it is important to submit them to an analysis and to proper consideration.

Introduction

The European continent has undergone a serious of significant changes throughout the years. From the two world wars it experienced to the Cold War that marked the division between the West and the East, the 20th century represented a time of great challenge. However, the European Union is now successfully engaged in attaining its initial role of uniting Europe under a single set of values, norms, and beliefs. Nonetheless, the finality of the project is still a matter of constant debate.

Background

The history of the EU-Russia relations is of rather recent date, taking into account the previous evolutions between the two partners for discussion. However, one of the most important arrangements between the two parties is the 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which set the official basis for discussions. The stated official foundation of the Agreement underlines precisely the areas in which negotiations and dialogue paths would be opened from 1997. In this sense, the Agreement is "founded on shared principles and objectives namely the promotion of international peace and security, support for democratic norms as well as for political and economic freedoms" (the European Union, 2006). Therefore, according to the official document the general guidelines of the UE-Russia relations are destined to create a strong political dialogue framework, improvements in the areas of trade and the market economy, but more importantly to offer an environment in which the Russian strive for democracy can be eventually achieved (European Commission, 1997).

The defining document for the relations between the two parties also considered the creation of certain dialogue mechanisms that would enable them to act in a consistent and periodic manner towards achieving the aim submitted in the Agreement. In this sense, at the level of the head of states, there are regular meetings in order to encourage high level talks. Also, the Permanent Partnership Council allows ministers from different areas of activity to interact and discuss various issues on the agenda. The meetings with the European Troika are also essential in building up the political dialogue between decision making officials. Furthermore, there is also a framework for parliamentarian contact through the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. Therefore, it can be said that the framework for discussions is established through the Agreement, yet today there are serious doubts on whether these channels were used at their maximum capacity.

Definition of the issue

The relationship between the European Union and the Russian Federation is at some points considered to be uneven, and more importantly opened to too little concessions and ideas for cooperation. However, in order to argue this point-of-view, it is essential to take into account the most important areas of cooperation that have been tackled in the EU-Russia dialogue.

One of the main areas of dialogue has been the European Foreign and Security Policy. In order to achieve a stronger connection between the EU and Russia "The Common Strategy on Russia" was adopted in 1999. However, it did not take into account a coherent and unitary approach of the Russian relations because inside the European Union there are divergent opinions in connection to the possible advancements towards the Russian Federation. Still, the relation with Russia is considered to be extremely important for the consistency of the European Security and Defense Policy due to the fact that "Russia is in this context in a unique position vis-a- vis the EU, as the only major global actor which is also a direct neighbor" (Vahl, 2006, 6). The European Union has worked intensively to create a broader framework for dialogue at the Lisbon European Council in 1992 when Russia was designated as one of the main priorities for the European Union (the Bulletin of the European Communities, 1992). However, the attempts made at the time were limited in their scope and were presented as an adjacent issue.

Even after the signing of the Agreement of 1997, the EU-Russia relations were perceived as a complementary, yet unessential element of the European Foreign Policy. This was obvious even in the financial aid it received along the years from the European Union, which was comparable to the former CSI countries. Thus, by comparison, "In the 1995-2002 periods, EU aid commitments to the countries of the Balkans were on average 246 Euros/capita, to the Mediterranean partners 23 euro on average. 7 euro/capita was allocated to Russia, slightly below the CIS average of 8 euro/capita" (Vahl, 2006, 10) Still, the fact that the Russian Federation struggled hard in order to achieve WTO member status is relevant to point out the fact that its importance for the European forum was somewhat limited.

The 1997 Agreement changed to a certain degree the relations between the two sides. More precisely, it pointed out the willingness of both Russia and the EU to collaborate further and strengthen their relations in the most important policy areas. Therefore, unlike the other countries part of the CSI system, Russia benefits from a political context in which it can conduct periodical discussions thus a certain permanent connection can be maintained. This would have seemed unimaginable during the Cold War period, from this point-of-view the Agreement being a step forward.

In terms of the security guarantees both sides could offer to each other, there were certain points that took their toll in agreeing to cooperate. One of the most important was the continuous challenges the world is facing, from two perspectives; on the one hand, during the 1990s, the new international framework that was emerging following the end of the Cold War was uncertain and in disarray. Neither the Europeans, nor the Russians were able to establish the direction in which the equilibrium of forces would go. On the other hand, there was the matter of the growing threat of terrorism, both internal and external. This threat increased following the 2001 attacks on the United States. At the time, a deeper cooperation in security matters was considered essential. The second dimension of the issue that brought together the idea of a cooperation model was the obvious weakness of the Russian Federation in terms of defense and military. Studies have concluded that "at the start of the new century Russia faces indeed a multilevel social, economic, demographic, and political crisis, all of which exacerbate Russia's vulnerability to destabilizing international trends. Putin's main conclusion is that these circumstances dictate a policy of deep engagement of Russia in the international community" (Lynch, 2003).

In terms of success and failure, it can be considered that the military and defense cooperation has known both ups and downs. The institutionalized relation appears to have achieved its aim of bringing together the two sides… [END OF PREVIEW]

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