The main aim of the paper is to assess how does the Russian Federation form its policies towards the European Union and how effective such policies are. The paper explores the main actors, challenges and levels of the decision-making process. The conclusions emphasize difference of effectiveness of the policy on different level of the actors’ cooperation.
The goals of the Russian policies towards the European Union were (and still are) constantly reviewed and adjusted. Many factors both from the Russian and the European sides contributed to that.
The factors from the Russian side may include the following. Firstly, with the start of the second presidential term of Vladimir Putin in 2004, the trends towards change of the political system in Russia took shape. Inter alia, those changes led to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation gaining more importance in the institutional framework and the intensification of activities of the former.
Secondly, the domestic economic system changed, the most important being the reallocation of power over the oil and natural gas production sector towards more state involvement. That influenced Russian foreign economic policy as a whole.
Thirdly, in the framework of a wider strategy towards gaining an importance on the international arena, more attention was paid to the European Union - that being the result of the recognition of the latter’s political weight in the European region.
From the European side, the most important factors were: the enlargements of 2004 and 2007 that had serious ideological and political implications for the Russian Federation. Now the “new” Member States play crucial role in defining the common position of the European Union towards Russia.
Secondly, imports of fossil fuels became a more than strategic issue due to the rising demand in Europe and soaring prices.
Thirdly, the European Union policy towards Russia began to be defined by the regionalization processes in Europe – leading to greater importance being attached to the projects of transregional cooperation.
There is no doubt, that the overview of criteria of policy effectiveness is impossible without identifying the main goals of Russian policy towards the EU. The ideological base is that Russia calls for the EU and the RF to work as equal partners. But that statement may be regarded as too broad, since there are no implications for any real goals. In a broader sense, that may mean the aspiration of Russia to deepen and intensify parity cooperation.
In practice, there are a number of intertwined goals. First of all, it is the task of ensuring guarantees of continuity of policies after the enlargements of 2004 and 2007. Second goal is to get guarantees for the bilateral investments, including those in the joint public-private sector. That is especially the case when talking about the Russian companies’ plans to get more control over energy (oil and natural gas) infrastructure in Europe. Third benchmark is getting support for the solution of mutually important issues. That, however, is expected to imply tackling Europe-wide problems with more involvement of Russia.
In order to achieve the above-mentioned goals, the actors stated high-priority tasks that became a basis for the so-called ‘road maps’ which were signed in 2005 in Moscow. The ‘road maps’ imply the creation of 4 common spaces: economic; external security; freedom, security and justice; science and education. Since then, all negotiations with the European Union are based on ‘road maps’ either implicitly or explicitly. The both sides, however, still mention that the potential of these documents is not yet fully implemented.
Second legal base for EU-Russia relations is the Agreement on partnership and cooperation, which is prolonged annually since its expiration on the December 1, 2007. The position of Russia concerning that issue is unambiguous – irrelevance of the Agreement is the responsibility of the European Union.
How those goals are pursued in practice is an important issue. According to the Russian law, the Ministry for foreign affairs of Russia has the coordinating role in the external relations of Russia. This institution has a number of tools that facilitate its work.
There are two main vectors of Russian MFA activities in the issue concerned. First one is the immediate cooperation of Russian and the EU institutions. One of the main features of that kind of interactions is flexibility due to a number of forms it may take. Agreement on partnership and cooperation, Common declaration of EU-Russia summit in Saint-Petersburg (2003) and other documents establish the following institutions: Permanent Cooperation Council (level of Ministers), Committee for Cooperation (senior officials level), Committee for Parliamentary Cooperation (level of MPs and MEPs), Council of business cooperation, meetings of foreign ministers on “Northern Dimension”, meetings between Russian Representative to the European Commission and ‘troika’ from Political and Security Committee, consultations on human rights. There has been a tendency of attaching more importance to the informal meetings and summits, which allow the solution of certain problems that arise due to the incoherence of the Member States’ positions. On the other hand, however, that may boil the cooperation down to the “gentleman agreements” that are unacceptable both from the point of institutional arrangements in the European Union and according to international law (in the sense on lack of transparency of international cooperation).
The second vector of the MFA activities is the information support of the foreign policy. Due to the rising importance of communications, the way information is channeled through various means may contribute to the favorable conditions for cooperation with the foreign partners. The examples of tools in that sphere may include: official declarations, compilation of documents aimed at the interested audiences, participation of the officials in TV and radio shows, etc. We should, however, mention channels of indirect influence on public opinion and official position of foreign partners as well. These include mentioning of Russian activities that are not directly associated with the policy towards the European Union – e.g., statements about visits of Russian theatrical companies, support of national sport teams during foreign games and competitions, etc.
 According to Article 106: ‘The Agreement is automatically renewed annually’