EU-Russia Relations, Toward a Way Out of Depression

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Publication Date July 2008
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Having undergone a period of stagnation (2003-2006), relations between the European Union and Russia are now going through a period of depression (2006-present) that is rooted in a series of misunderstandings and frustration. Is this a profound depression or a temporary one? Like an old married couple obliged to live together and contractually bound to one another, the two partners are no longer attracted to each other and are unable to put their relationship into perspective.

The obvious lack of desire for the other is clearly mutual. The current context is the perfect opportunity for redefining EU-Russia relations, considering Dmitry Medvedev's arrival at the Kremlin, flanked by Vladimir Putin as prime minister, in May 2008; the French presidency of the European Union, beginning in the second semester of 2008, with energy issues topping the agenda; and the presidential election in the United States in November 2008.This report aims to shed light on the current disagreements in order to find a way out of the current phase of depression, thereby furthering the interests of both parties. It is based on the key idea that EU-Russia interdependence cannot be avoided and will only get stronger in the future. Three related reasons help explain the current depression: the clash of their respective identities in a fast-moving context; a progressive "securitization" of their energy exchanges; and finally, negative mutual perceptions. Yet, for a number of other reasons, the two parties are unable to do without each other and cannot afford to avoid the redefinition of their partnership. This report aims to draw up an outline for the coming period—that is, 2008 to 2012. In methodological terms, overcoming depression requires two successive stages: the identification of the main obstacles by the expert community; and the formulation of these obstacles in political terms. This dual progression requires adroit discernment of what should come under the public sphere (through public diplomacy) and what should be dealt with through specific channels.This study is part of a series of reports being published by the joint CSIS/IFRI project "Europe, Russia, and the United States: Finding a New Balance," which seeks to reframe the trilateral relationship for the relevant policymaking communities.

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