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EU-Russia: toward closer ties - 25/02/2011

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin shaking hands with Commission president José Manuel Barroso © EU

Energy, trade and a new framework for further cooperation dominate discussion at meeting between Commission and Russian government.

Ensuring a stable political and economic relationship with Russia is at the core of the EU's policy towards its eastern neighbour and is a key condition for securing stability in the region.

The meeting between the Commission and Russia’s government held in Brussels on 24 February was the largest so far in the developing relationship.

Oil and gas

Russia is the EU's third-largest trade partner, and the EU is Russia's largest export market. Russia supplies a third of the EU's crude oil and about a quarter of its gas.

This supply is crucial to EU needs, but has been unreliable in the past. Europe is therefore aiming to secure its energy supplies through its energy strategy, while working to prevent future stoppages from affecting consumers – as happened in 2009.

The meeting resulted in the signing of four energy agreements, including an update to a previous deal requiring Russia to warn the EU if supplies are in danger of being disrupted.

Beyond trade

EU-Russia relations go beyond trade and energy. Since 1991, the EU has provided some €2.8bn in financial assistance to Russia. As Russia's economy has developed, the EU has turned from assistance to part-financing projects tailored to four areas of cooperation:

  • economy and trade – boosting investment and trade by making economic and regulatory systems more compatible
  • freedom, security and justice – covers justice and home affairs, rule of law and human rights in Russia
  • external security – includes crisis management and the non-proliferation of nuclear arms and other weapons, and bilateral and global cooperation
  • research and education – covers innovation and cultural cooperation

Currently, cooperation between the EU and Russia is based on a 1997 agreement. A new treaty is being negotiated to extend cooperation in trade, investment and energy.

Other areas of negotiation included visa-free travel between the EU and Russia, and the EU's support for Russia's application to join the World Trade Organisation.

More on EU-Russia relations
EU-Russia energy relations

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