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Scorecard The Europe Question

A Power Audit of EU-Russia relations

Published on 7 November, 2007

Despite its economic strength and military might, the European Union has begun to behave as if it were subordinate to an increasingly assertive Russia. This dramatic change in the power relationship is rooted in the EU's disunity and self-doubt - but both can be fixed, according to the authors of the first-ever 'Power Audit' on bilateral EU-Russia relations, conducted with the participation of national experts from 27 EU member states.

Click here to download the full report.

Click here to read our press release. 

You can download the executive summary of this report in Bulgarian, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish.


The EU's failure to agree on a common Russia policy has allowed the Kremlin to increase its leverage over the EU, through signing bilateral energy deals, playing the Kosovo card, asserting itself in the common neighbourhood, and dragging its feet on preventing nuclear proliferation. During the Putin years, Moscow had bilateral disputes with 11 EU countries, including the Litvinenko affair with the UK, the Polish meat ban, and trade disputes with the Netherlands.

This ECFR report says that EU governments are torn between two dominant approaches to Russia. One side sees Russia as a threat that needs to be managed with 'soft-containment', the other sees the country a potential partner that can be transformed through 'creeping integration' into the European system.

Within those, the authors identify five distinct categories of countries. Greece and Cyprus are referred to as 'trojan horses' whose governments often defend positions close to Russian interests, and who have been willing to veto common EU positions. The study reveals little-known facts such as Cyprus being the biggest official 'investor' in Russia, due to the amount of Russian capital which is saved there. Germany, France, Italy and Spain are described as "strategic partners" - whose governments have built special bilateral relationships with Russia, which has sometimes cut against the grain of common EU objectives in areas such as energy and the EU Neighbourhood Policy.

Ten countries - Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia and Portugal - are labelled as 'friendly pragmatists' whose governments have a less close but still significant relationship with Russia, in which business interests come first. Their policy tends to follow pragmatic business interests, opting for a path of least resistance in political disputes. In Bulgaria, for instance, the government has strong economic links with the Russian company Lukoil, which generated more than 5% of Bulgaria's GDP and around 25% of its tax revenues in 2003.

The report identifies nine further countries - the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Romania and the United Kingdom - as 'frosty pragmatists'. While keeping business interests high on the agenda, the governments of these countries have not refrained from criticising Russia's human rights record and failings on democracy.

Finally, Poland and Lithuania are described as 'new Cold-warriors' who have developed an overtly hostile relationship with Moscow and are willing to use the veto to block EU negotiations with Russia.

The authors of the report argue that the five groups of the EU need to unite around a common approach - one that reflects the EU's long-term strategic interests. To reverse the 'asymmetric interdependence' that is currently in Russia's favour, the authors recommend that the European Union:

- Pushes for the implementation of all international agreements and standards Russia has committed itself to, in order to further promote the rule of law;
- Makes Russia's participation in G8 summits conditional on its commitment to the spirit and the letter of common agreements, with the threat of organizing more low-level meetings within the G7 format should Russia be uncooperative;
- Introduces the policy of 'principled bilateralism' where EU governments are expected to use bilateral links to serve common EU goals and introduce an early warning system to inform of impending energy deals or bilateral disputes;
- Makes the EU Neighbourhood Policy more efficient to encourage participating countries to respect the rule of law and draw them further into the EU's orbit;
- Gives the European Commission political backing to use competition policy to investigate energy deals; and authorise it to pre-approve major energy deals;
- Provides assistance to Turkey, Ukraine and Moldova in implementing the EU's energy acquis communautaire.

The report represents the views of its authors, not the collective view of ECFR


An opinion piece by Mark Leonard and Nicu Popescu was published from 16 November 2007 in Europe's WorldThe GuardianDie Welt, the Turkish Today’s Zaman, The Moscow TimesThe Japan Times, the Taiwanese Taipei Times, Romania's Hungarian-language KronikaThe Daily Independent Bangladesh, Egypt's The Daily Star, Pakistan's The Daily Times, and The Cyprus Mail.

Press clippings

Adiós a la seguridad de la guerra fría, El País, 13 December 2007

EU calls for unity against resurgent Russia, Washington Times, 05 December 2007

Divide y vencerás, Diario Público, 03 December 2007

Giving Putin more power risks Europe having less, Sydney Morning Herald, 03 December 2007

A vote that insults democracy, The Toronto Star, 02 December 2007

Kosovo: a chapter closes, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, 26 November 2007

Analysis: EU deals with Russia weaken bloc, United Press International, 21 November 2007

Kan EU normalisere Russland?, Morgenbladet, 16 November 2007

New think thank hard to change EU's status quo, People's Daily, 14 November 2007

Россия завладела инициативой в отношениях с единой Европой, Moskovskie Novosti, 11 November 2007

Schröder und Steinmeier: Merkel macht Außenpolitik für sich selbst, Die Welt, 11 November 2007

Steinmeier in Sorge um Abrüstung: Minister plädiert für Einbindung Russlands, Berliner Zeitung, 10 November 2007

"Eine Auszeit von der Wirklichkeit", Die Presse, 09 November 2007

Schnellboote für eine neue deutsche Außenpolitik, Die Welt, 09 November 2007

Observer: Growth industry, Financial Times, 09 November 2007

EU-Russia relations study lists Malta among ‘friendly pragmatists', Times of Malta, 08 November 2007

Putin dictating agenda to EU, thinktank report says, 08 November 2007

Curbing Russia, RBC Daily, 08 November 2007

EU split into several camps on Russia strategy, says report, EU Observer, 08 November 2007

Russia has split Europe, won influence, Kommersant, 08 November 2007

Report: EU needs new Russia strategy, Press TV, 07 November 2007

EU should unite behind new Russia strategy: study, Reuters, 06 November 2007

Rosja rządzi Unią, Gazeta Wyborcza, 06 November 2007


BBC World Debate, March 2008




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