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Report | 6 June 2016

ELN Member Survey on EU-Russia Relations

To inform the EU’s new Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, the European Leadership Network conducted a survey of its members – former, present and emerging political, military, and diplomatic leaders from the broader Europe area – to solicit their views on EU-Russia relations. The 42 respondents represented a diverse and experienced group of individuals from 20 countries from all major regions of Europe.

The most significant finding of the survey was that the majority of respondents (85%) remained in favour of maintaining the original linkage of EU sanctions removal with Russia’s actions in Ukraine BUT 52% believed sanctions should be phased out gradually in return for gradual implementation of Minsk 2 agreement.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • A transformation of Russia’s policy, not accommodation with Moscow, should be the EU’s goal. The current EU policy of making a full resumption of ties and any future deepening of cooperation with Russia contingent on a change in Russian behaviour received the broadest support.
  • The top three areas of potential EU security cooperation with Russia, as identified by the respondents, should be: the Middle East crisis, the fight against terrorism, and non-proliferation.

The results of the survey confirm that there are no simple solutions to improve the state of EU – Russian relations. However the majority of the respondents rejected the notion that the EU should start ‘adjusting’ itself to Russian behaviour and seek a new opening in the relationship, for example by removing the sanctions or supporting a major adjustment of the principles of the European security order in line with Russian proposals.

At the same time, the judgement that the EU and Russia are pre-determined to part ways was very much a minority view. This suggests that with enough political will, especially on the Russian side, and some creative diplomacy, it might be possible to find an acceptable modus vivendi and avoid clashes over our policies.


The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.