The European Union (EU) and Russia remain closely interdependent despite strained relations since 2014. Russia and the EU share longstanding historical, cultural and economic ties and the EU continues to engage Russia in selected areas of EU interest. The EU is Russia’s first trading partner and Russia is the EU’s fifth trading partner. In 2019, EU imports from Russia reached €144 billion and EU exports to Russia €88 billion.

Political relations

Since 2014 the bilateral dialogue EU-Russia has been seriously affected. As a result, some of the policy dialogues and mechanisms of cooperation are temporarily frozen, and sanctions directed at promoting a change in Russia's actions in Ukraine have been adopted. However, Russia remains a natural partner for the EU and a strategic player combating the regional and global challenges.

Russia is the EU's largest neighbour, which has always been reflected in extensive cooperation and exchange over the 25 years prior to the current crisis. Russia is a key player in the UN Security Council and, due to history, geographic proximity and cultural links, is one of the key players in Europe and its neighbourhood. Russia is also a major supplier of energy products to the EU and a large, dynamic market for EU goods and services, with considerable economic growth.

As members of the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, the EU and Russia have committed to upholding and respecting the fundamental values and principles of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and the market economy. These values underpin the EU-Russia relationship.

International Cooperation

Both the EU and Russia have a long record of cooperation on issues of bilateral and international concern including climate change, migration, drugs trafficking, trafficking of human beings, organised crime, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, the Middle East peace process, and protection of human rights.

Furthermore, the EU develops a range of informal operational contacts that allow for a detailed understanding of Russian priorities and policies on international issues, provide early warning of potential problems and support the coordination of policy planning.

Economic and Trade Relations

The EU, represents around 5% of the EU’s merchandise trade in 2020 and remains the biggest trade partner for Russia, with bilateral trade in goods totalling €174 billion in 2020, or around 40% of Russia's trade. Main EU exports to Russia are in the categories of machinery, transport equipment, medicines, chemicals and other manufactured products. Main EU imports from Russia are raw materials, especially oil (crude and refined) and gas, as well as metals (notably iron/steel, aluminium, nickel). Wines and spirits still represented €700 million in 2019.

The EU is by far the largest foreign investor in Russia. The EU’s stock of foreign direct investment in Russia amounted to €277 billion in 2018, Russia’s stock in the EU – to €89 billion.

Climate Change and Environment

Climate change and the environment are areas of tremendous significance both to the EU and Russia. Both the EU and Russia are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Paris Agreement entered into force for both of them (after the EU ratified the agreement in October 2016 and Russia “accepted” it in September 2019).

In November 2019, President Putin signed a decree ordering the Government “to ensure by 2030 the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 70 percent compared to the 1990 level”. This became Russia’s "Nationally Determined Contribution" as part of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In December 2019, Russia adopted a national plan to adapt to climate change until the end of 2022. Moreover, a long-term low carbon development strategy and a law on the limitation of GHG emissions will soon see the light of day. The law will introduce mandatory reporting for the largest emitters of GHG.

With 5% of global greenhouse gases emissions, Russia is the world's fifth largest emitter country after China, the US, the EU and India. The levels of its emissions per capita and emission intensity are high. While it is one of the largest producers of gas, oil and coal, and still has a poor record on energy efficiency, it is also the world's largest forest country. Due to Russia’s location as a neighbour of the EU, its climate policies, beyond a global impact, have also a direct impact on the EU due to the risk of carbon leakage and competition distortion in the trade of energy and goods.

Russia boasts huge areas undisturbed by man and holds over 20% of the Earth's water resources and forests. But while Russia is home to unique natural resources, it also suffers from a number of environmental problems, some a legacy of the Soviet past, some brought about by more recent economic growth, with threats to biodiversity, deforestation and illegal logging, water, air and soil pollution ranking among the most serious ones. Given its geographical closeness, common land and sea borders, many of those issues are of common concern and should be tackled together.

Given long common land and sea borders, interconnected biosystems and shared risks, environmental problems can and should be addressed together. The need for joint action, together with the rest of international community, is even more pronounced in the area of climate change and global warming.

The European Union cooperates with Russia on climate change and environmental issues in the framework of numerous international organisations, conventions and United Nations bodies and agencies. The UNFCCC is one example of international forum where the EU and Russia are collaborating actively in pursuing the global objective of preventing global warming and its catastrophic consequences for the humanity.

Bilaterally, the European Union and Russia have been co-operating on environmental questions since 1995. Over the past two decades, the EU has provided support for numerous projects aimed at improving environmental standards in Russia.

Currently, the EU is channeling its support to the climate and environment action through its on-going partnerships' initiatives – the Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC), the Northern Dimension (ND) and the Strategic partnerships for the implementation of the Paris Agreement (SPIPA).

In Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) programmes, environment is one of the priority thematic objectives. Seven CBC land-border programmes with participation of Russia (Kolarctic, Karelia, South-East Finland-Russia, Estonia-Russia, Latvia-Russia, Lithuania-Russia, and  Poland-Russia) are being implemented. The programmes focus inter alia on modernisation of heating systems in schools and hospitals, modernisation of border crossing points, promoting healthy lifestyle by building recreational centres or implementing ecological education, cooperation for clean natural environment and efficient management of natural resources, cooperation for increasing accessibility of regions, promotion of innovation capacities, sustainable transport and communication models. Thematic objectives of these programmes were jointly approved by the Parties in accordance with national programmes and strategies. Moreover, the North West regions of Russia are partners to the Interreg Baltic Sea Programme, a programme which supports integrated territorial development and cooperation for a more innovative, better accessible and sustainable Baltic Sea region. The programme is co-funded by the European Union, based on an agreement between the EU Member States of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and the northern parts of Germany. € 8.8 million have been allocated from the programme funds to project activities in Russia and Belarus. Support for these CBC programmes is set to continue as Interreg NEXT (new generation of CBC programmes 2021-2027).

The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) is a result-focused initiative responding to calls from the international community, in particular Russia and Belarus, for concerted action to tackle the most pressing environmental problems in the Northern Dimension area - a broad area around the Barents and Baltic seas. The NDEP's objective is to help to tackle the problem of pollution caused by poor waste-water treatment, insufficient energy efficiency measures and inadequate municipal, agricultural and nuclear waste management. It includes wastewater treatment projects in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Petrozavodsk, Arkhangelsk, Novgorod, Vologda, Syktyvkar, Pskov, Gatchina, Vyborg and Veliky Novgorod,  district heating rehabilitation projects in Kaliningrad, Vologda and Gatchina, solid waste management project in Petrozavodsk wastewater projects in Petrozavodsk, and projects to address black carbon emissions from local heat and power generation in Vologda. The NDEP is also used for priority nuclear safety projects, to mitigate the legacy of the operation of nuclear-powered ships and submarines of Russia’s northern fleet, which are in different stages of decommissioning. The overall pledged size of the Northern Dimension support fund is € 348.2 million, with the EU as the largest contributor with a total of € 84 million.

SPIPA is a multi-country project that contributes to EU's climate diplomacy efforts and cooperation between the EU and non-European major economies - including Russia - to promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement. To respond to climate change SPIPA engages with Russian experts in such areas as forests, energy efficiency in buildings and methodological aspects of decarbonisation modelling


Russia is the largest oil, gas, uranium and coal exporter to the EU. Likewise, the EU by far the largest trade partner of the Russian Federation. Based on this mutual interdependence and common interests in the energy sector, the EU and Russia developed an energy partnership and launched the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue in 2000.

The EU is ready to cooperate with Russia in further developing a number of market principles in the energy sector, such as: an energy efficiency and saving policy, investment facilitation and protection, the right of access to energy transport infrastructure, network operators’ independence from the natural monopoly producers, sector regulation, and reform of monopolies.

Russia and the EU both seek to ensure stable energy markets, and to secure reliable exports and imports. Both wish to see improved energy efficiency and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from energy production and use in their respective economies. To these ends, regular dialogues take places, for example the trilateral gas talks between the EU, Russia, and Ukraine aimed to insure an uninterrupted supply of gas to and through Ukraine, including after 2019).

The Early Warning Mechanism is one element of the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue. This Early Warning Mechanism constitutes an essential procedure whereby the parties inform each other of short- or long-term risks to the security of supply or demand. Contact persons on both sides have been designated and the Mechanism has already proven its effectiveness. The formal nature of the Mechanism, including its precise format, contents and organization are included in the Memorandum on the Early Warning Mechanism.  


Educational cooperation between Russia and the EU is guided by the principles of the Bologna Process of the Council of Europe which Russia is a member of since 2003. Through this process, countries, institutions and stakeholders of the European area continuously adapt their higher education systems making them more compatible and strengthening their quality assurance mechanisms as part of the European Higher Education Aera.

There are numerous opportunities for Russian individuals and institutions to benefit from the EU-Russia educational cooperation. Student and academic mobility programmes in Russia contribute to the reinforcement of people-to-people contact between Russia and the European Union. Russia remains among the leading non-EU participant countries in EU academic programmes.

Human Rights Dialogue

The EU is committed to promoting human rights and the rule of law in Russia in a sustained and constructive manner.

Projects of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) are implemented by Russian and European non-governmental, non-profit-making organisations. The EU allocates between 100,000 and 1 million EUR to each project. Usually the grant beneficiary must part-finance at least 5% of the project costs from its own funds or from a grant awarded by another donor. Projects have the duration of between 12 and 36 months.

Since its launch in Russia in 1997, the EIDHR has supported over 390 projects.

Justice, Freedom and Security

Cooperation between the EU and the Russian Federation in the field of Justice, Freedom and Security since the early 1990's has been a key component in the development of an extensive partnership. However since 2014, the EU has suspended the Permanent Partnership Councils (PPCs) and Senior Official meetings (SOMs) on Justice, Freedom and Security

Migration and asylum

The EU and Russia have been aiming at further enhancing cooperation on migration and asylum. Therefore, in 2011 a specific EU-Russia Migration Dialogue was established to bring together experts to discuss issues related to international protection, irregular migration, migration and development, and legal migration. These meetings continue to take place annually either in the EU or in Russia.

Readmission Agreement

The EU-Russia Readmission Agreement entered into force in 2007 and establishes the principles and procedures for the transfer of persons, who have been found to enter, stay or reside illegally in the territory of the EU or Russia. In addition, most EU Member States have signed bilateral implementing protocols with Russia.

The annual EU-Russia Joint Readmission Committee regularly discusses any practical issues related to the implementation of this Agreement. 

Border management

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) has been cooperating on an operational basis with its Russian counterparts on the basis of a working arrangement established in 2006. This practical cooperation has focused on risk analyses, training, research and developments related to border management, as well as possible joint operations under the aegis of FRONTEX.

Fight Against Organised Crime

Significant steps have been taken in strengthening cooperation in the fight against organised crime:

  • Europol and Russia's Ministry of Interior cooperate on threat assessments based on their strategic cooperation agreement of 2003. Negotiations on an operational cooperation agreement were started in 2010 but were suspended after 2014. Europol's new mandate allows ad-hoc operational cooperation in exceptional circumstances.
  • The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement and Training (CEPOL) and the Russian Ministry of the Interior concluded a protocol of intent in April 2008 to enhance training activities for law enforcement agencies. As of 2013 a Working Arrangement between CEPOL and the Federal State Public Training Institution of Higher Professional Education "Academy of Management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation" was concluded.
  • The European Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation(FDCS of Russia, now the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation) signed a Memorandum of Understanding n 2007 to facilitate exchange of information. An annual EU-Russia expert meeting on drugs is ongoing.

The fight against trafficking of human beings, money laundering and terrorist financing, and cybercrime represent potential for a strengthened cooperation between the EU and Russia in the future. The EU and Russia hold regular expert meetings on counter-terrorism.

Judicial Coooperation in Civil, Criminal and Commercial Matters

Informal talks have been held between the EU and Russia on judicial cooperation in civil, criminal and commercial matters. Eurojust and Russia had aimed at further strengthening their cooperation. Negotiations on an operational agreement between Eurojust and Russia were started in 2009 and were suspended after 2014.

Science and Technology

Legal and institutional framework

The legal framework for EU-Russia science and technology (S&T) cooperation is set by the following documents:

  • Agreement on cooperation in science and technology between the European Community and the Russian Federation (2000).
  • Agreement for cooperation between the European Atomic Energy Community and the Government of the Russian Federation in the field of nuclear safety (2001);
  • Agreement for cooperation between the European Atomic Energy Community and the Government of the Russian Federation in the field of controlled nuclear fusion (2001);
  • EU-Russia Partnership & Cooperation Agreement (chapter on science & technology - article 62).

Institutionally, S&T cooperation is coordinated by the Joint S&T Cooperation Committee.

EU Framework Programmes for Research

One of the most established forms of EU-Russia S&T cooperation is the participation of Russian scientists in the EU's Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation, where Russia has traditionally been one of the most active and successful international cooperation partner countries. EU researchers, for their part, actively participate in Russia's research and development (R&D) programmes, such as the Russian 'mega-grants' programme to attract leading scientists to Russian universities and research institutes.

During the period 2014-2020, the EU's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 'Horizon 2020' was the main instrument of cooperation in the areas of research and innovation at the EU level. Horizon 2020 aimed to foster innovation through collaboration, bringing together researchers, innovators and industry from the European Union and beyond. The programme was open to everyone from everywhere, including from Russia. As a result, Russian organisations have been involved in nearly 130 Horizon 2020 research and innovation projects jointly with their European partners. 

Starting from 2021, the Horizon 2020 programme is succeeded by the Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme, which will run until 2027. Active participation of Russian entities and continued support for such participation from the side of the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education (as well as other Russian ministries and relevant funding organisations) in the framework of the new programme have been confirmed.

The programme was presented to the Russian public during the official launch event on 18 June 2021.

Global research infrastructures

Another key area of Russia-EU S&T cooperation involves the development of global research infrastructures, including the large-scale "mega-science" projects. Russia and the EU actively collaborate on a number of research infrastructure initiatives, for example the EU X-ray Free-Electron Laser (XFEL) and the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR); the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER); the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN); and others.

The Horizon 2020 CREMLINplus (Connecting Russian and European Measures for Large-scale Research Infrastructures – plus) project (2020-2024) was launched to foster European-Russian scientific and technical collaboration in the field of research infrastructures.

Russia and the EU also collaborate within the framework of the Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on global research infrastructures.

Researchers' Mobility

A number of important programmes are in place to facilitate researchers' mobility between the EU and Russia. At the EU level these are mainly the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (under the EU's Framework Programme) and Erasmus+ programme. These initiatives serve as an important tool of Russia's integration into the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area.   

Compendium of Science and Technology Cooperation

All opportunities for cooperation in S&T between the EU, EU Member States, and the Russian Federation are now described in the new edition of the " Compendium".

Technical and Financial Cooperation 

The nature of EU-Russia cooperation changed following the end of TACIS.   For already nearly a decade, available EU-funding for cooperation with Russia has been largely channelled to support ongoing policy dialogues in the framework of EU-Russia common spaces and the partnership for modernisation. Cooperation in the field of higher education and academic exchanges, cross border cooperation and northern dimension has also continued, parallel to this.

The EU is also providing support to civil society in Russia via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and also supports policy dialogues via the Partnership instrument.


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