The EU and Russia clashed on trade and energy as Moscow’s belief that the Eastern Partnership undermines its own interests in the region prevented a constructive dialogue.
In 2012, the EU and Russia clashed on trade and energy, just as they did in 2011. The EU launched DCFTA negotiations with Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia and signed an Association Agreement (which includes a DCFTA) with Ukraine (see component 48). Meanwhile, Russia established a Common Economic Space with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which built on the Customs Union they had created in 2010. Russia also continued to encourage other countries, above all Ukraine, to join the Customs Union. In fact, various Russian government representatives suggested that Kyiv might face restrictions on its exports to Russia if it did not become a member. Russia also pushed back against the EU’s effort to extend its energy-liberalisation legislation to Ukraine and Moldova and offered Chisinau a gas discount if it renounced the plan to separate the ownership of production and supply of gas and gas-transmission networks, which it sees as a direct threat to the interests of state-owned Gazprom.
The EU remained relatively united in trying to pursue the goals under its Eastern Partnership initiative despite Russia’s resistance. Some member states such as Germany and Poland were particularly active in speaking out against Russian pressure on the EU’s eastern neighbours. In particular, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a personal interest in Moldova. During a visit to Chisinau in August to celebrate 20 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Merkel even talked about a European perspective for Moldova – which Moscow would almost certainly oppose. The EU also pushed back forcefully against Russia’s offer of a gas discount to Moldova in return for backtracking on its commitment to unbundle its gas pipeline system. In a statement in October, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger urged member states to resist “unacceptable” Russian pressure on Moldova and said the EU would not tolerate “pure blackmail” from Moscow.