European Council on Foreign Relations

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Energy Union: view from Madrid

Following the announcement of the shared Polish-French idea to develop an EU Energy Union, we’ve asked ECFR  staff from Berlin, Rome, Sofia, Warsaw, and Madrid, to contribute to our “View from the capitals” series. How do the different member states view the proposal? Are the governments going to support it? 

The crisis with Russia over Ukraine has got many in Europe discussing measures to lessen European energy dependence on Russia, including a timely proposal for an energy union. In this context debate in Spain has been discussing the country’s potential as a gas supplier to Europe.

Spain does not rely on Russian gas – it imports gas from Algeria and other countries. This, together with its geographical position as a European port of entry, and the fact that it has a number of under-used re-gasification plants, could make Spain an alternative energy supplier to other European

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EU-Russia Relations – Where do we go from here?

European Council for Foreign Relations


Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding


This memo is the outcome of an ECFR-CPRDiP workshop on EU-Russia relations, held in Warsaw on April 2-3, attended by prominent independent experts from EU member states and Russia. The text reflects various points made by the participants rather than a coherent position paper of either ECFR or CPRDiP.

Where are we?

Russia violated Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by an act of aggression followed by the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea in a clear breach of the UN Charter and the OSCE Helsinki Final Act, Budapest Memorandum of 1994, as well as the bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997, not to mention the Ukrainian constitution.

With its annexation of Crimea, Russian has initiated a new fundamental confrontation with

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Rome and Berlin converge on Russia

Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, Italy has been in line with the German approach, based on four main convictions. A political solution as the only solution. Military intervention though NATO is an extreme option and only a very last resort. International institutions and forums, such as OSCE and G7/G8 should be involved. And finally, like Berlin, Rome also seeks a constructive dialogue with Russia. The Italian government is convinced that its “important convergence” with Germany on Russia and the Ukraine crisis has been successful in mitigating the tougher approach that some other EU countries would have chosen.

And Ukraine is not an exception. Traditionally, Rome and Berlin have shared common views on many European and international issues. This is especially the case with their Russia policies because of both countries have always had strong economic ties with Russia.

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Berlin’s Shift on Russia Exposes Sofia

Berlin's turn to a more assertive policy towards Russia has a direct impact on Sofia. The current government, led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), largely shares the Moscow-friendly outlook of Germany’s SPD. Its leader Sergey Stanishev, born in the Ukrainian city of Kherson, held Russian citizenship until 1996 and is a graduate of the prestigious Moscow State University. Links between business people close to the government and Russia are more than close, especially where the energy trade is concerned. That explains the accommodation line pursued by the cabinet, unwilling to antagonize Moscow. But Sofia has been all too happy to hide behind Germany. For instance, in local debates, Gazprom-friendly voices arguing why South Stream should be granted exception from the EU’s Third Energy Package invariably refer to the precedent set by North Stream. 

The shift in German policy is

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The politics and economics of sanctions against Russia

Vladimir Putin, it is clear, has a particularly old fashioned view of power: it can always be distilled into something resembling an arm wrestle involving gunboats, ununiformed military specialists, and the odd tank on the odd street corner. The EU, it is clear, is not in the same game. How then, can it have a foreign policy impact when dealing with those who talk loudly and feel free to use the big stick they routinely brandish?

One answer is of course sanctions. They are the frontline response of the EU to the Kremlin over events in Crimea. But they are also controversial: do they work and - if so - how can they be crafted to achieve the best outcome? ECFR's Wider Europe team held a seminar to discuss these and other related issues. The two main speakers were Mark Galeotti of New York University and Timothy Ash of Standard Bank. I packaged up their main thoughts into two clear

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