Analysis: A new agreement between the EU and Russia?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

With energy currently on top of EU-Russia relations, researchers at CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies) discuss the different options available for the replacement of the 10-year old EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).

As the EU-Russia energy dialogue ranks high on the political agenda, official circles seriously presume that the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) will be replaced by a new Agreement on its 10th anniversary (1 December 2007).

However, there is no compelling legal reason to negotiate a new agreement, the authors note. In which case, the current one will automatically be extended. This, the authors say, raises questions about the ‘raison d’être,’ of the agreement and the “form, purpose and content of bilateral treaties in the context of an integrating Europe.” In this perspective, the researchers argue in favour of a new arrangement relying on the changes that occurred since the 1990s both at EU and Russia levels. They draw up six possible scenarios:

  • Retire the PCA without replacement 
  • Extend the status quo 
  • Extend the status quo, adding a Political Declaration on Strategic Partnership
  • Replace the PCA with a short Treaty of Strategic Partnership 
  • Replace the PCA with a comprehensive Treaty of Strategic Partnership
  • A Treaty on Strategic Union

From the outset, the authors dismiss the “comprehensive,” “multi-sectoral” Treaty option, which they think is “suited to the case where the partner wishes to accede to the EU.” If applied to govern EU-Russia relations, this format would yield negative effects on both partners: lengthy negotiations, cumbersome ratification process (e.g. 3 years for the existing PCA), inflexibility and rapid obsolescence of the substance.

For these reasons, the researchers advocate a model of negotiating multiple concrete, sector-specific agreements, in the fields of energy, to start with, and trade – as soon as Russia joins WTO. Moreover, they recommend a “three-stage” development that would go through scenarios 2 and 3 in the short/medium term, before leading to the adoption of a “Treaty on Strategic Union” (scenario 6). This “noble formula” is crucial for a healthy “co-habitation” between “Europe’s only two major powers,” they argue. However, this will only be possible after a greater degree of trust between the two partners is attained.

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