Exploring the dynamics of EU-Russia relations: Part I – Introducing key norms and background

Posted on Posted in Analyses, Energy Security, EU & NATO

By Lazaros Galanomatis, Analyst KEDISA

In this series of papers, we will be examining some aspects of EU – Russian relations after the Cold war, regarding the sectors of energy issues and security, with the Crimea crisis as a highlight. The purpose will be to dissect, what changed between EU and Russia after the Crimea crisis in the sense of how EU perceived Russia before the annexation and what has changed after.

Also valuable to our cause are concepts such as power projection, use of force and hybrid warfare. Valuable because these concepts help us understand how and why some things are happening in International Relations, how states as international actors try to promote their interests, the changing nature of war and the transition from bipolarity to multipolarity of the contemporary world. In the present paper we will be looking into the concept of energy security and some facts regarding the EU – Russia energy relations.

Energy relations and issues

European Union’s first concern was always peace, and this is so because stability comes through peace, especially in a continent almost torn apart by two world wars. That is why it was created in the first place. Regarding stability, an important matter is that of energy supply since Russia is the most important energy supplier to the EU both in oil and natural gas and thus the concept of energy security comes to the surface. Energy security is concept that argues about the relation of security in a state level or more commonly national security and energy supply. The association of these two variables constitute a conceptional framework in the sense that a state can have access to the energy it needs to cover its needs in affordable prices.

Taking into account the above, Kacper Szulecki provides two definitions of energy security.Firstly, according to Daniel Yergin: “The objective of energy security is to assure adequate, reliable supplies of energy at reasonable prices and in ways that do not jeopardize major national values and objectives” (1).Secondly, according to the same report: “the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price”

So what makes a state energy secure? According to David F. von Hippel, taking into account the contemporary threats that emerged after the Cold War, such as ongoing conflicts and unstable regions, at least 3 goals should be achieved on the state’s behalf (2):

  • survival of the nation
  • protection of national welfare
  • minimization of risks associated with supply and use of fuel and energy services

So in a sense the above goals have to be achieved by the policy-makers to ensure what is called energy security.Moving to the issue of EU – Russia relations, it is very important to note that the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between EU and Russia was a step forward for the EU – Russia relations after the Cold War, as it became the legal basis for the relations between the two parties.

It was on the 30th of October 2000, during Romano Prodi’s presidency, when EU–Russia Energy Dialogue was established in Paris at the EU–Russia Summit, in order for the participants to start a dialogue that would define the EU-Russia energy partnership, following the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that was signed in June of 1994 and came into force in December of 1997 (3).It should be noted that the EU is highly depended on this sector as it imports more than half of the energy it needs, 66% of natural gas and 90% of crude oil. What describes the EU – Russia’s relation on this matter is interdependence. This happens because Russia is Europe’s most important energy supplier and EU was always, and still remains the biggest investor in Russia.

The Crimea annexation and the instability in Ukraine in general, came as both a surprise and a shock to the European Union, as Russia, the most important energy supplier, challenged the security of the Union and EU energy governance had to take that into account. The EU energy supplies are even greater than USA’s and China’s and such dependency is viewed as a weakness of European energy policy.

In conclusion, the impact of the crisis in Ukraine is a big one. That is why it made EU to rethink what is its position in the international system and the world itself. More specifically this crisis made EU to rethink what is the position in the region and if can act like an important player in the region and if it can have other countries in its sphere of influence. It also made EU rethink its relationship with Russia and this is important because there is always the issue of interpretation and perspective. Energy Union, conducted in 2015, is in a sense a part of EU’s rethinking and reexamination of its position in the world, as well as an institutional framework in order to make energy policy more effective and with more coherence.


  1. Szulecki, K. Energy Security in Europe: Divergent Perceptions and Policy Challenges. s.l. : Palgrave, 2017.
  2. David F. von Hippel, Tatsujiro Suzuki, James H. Williams, Timothy Savage, Peter Hayes. Evaluating the Energy Security Impacts of Energy Policies from: The Routledge Handbook of Energy. s.l. : The Routledge Handbook of Energy Security, 2010.
  3. Declaration, EU – Russia Summit Joint. EU/Russia Summit Joint Declaration IP/00/1239. 2000.