19th May 2022

Brussels courts Moscow with free trade offer

  • Brussels hopes the free trade offer could make Moscow more friendly on energy (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Commission has offered a free trade agreement to Russia, in a bid to reach an overall deal with Moscow which should also secure the EU's future energy supplies.

Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso stated on Monday (3 July) upon a visit to the fresh Finnish EU presidency in Helsinki that "we propose to move towards a free trade area to be completed once Russia accedes to the WTO."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Mr Barroso's offer is part of a plan by Brussels to revamp political ties with the Russians, with the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Brussels and Moscow open for re-negotiation from 2007 onwards.

He added that Brussels regards energy as another key element of the overall deal with Moscow.

"We propose a partnership approach for energy, based on mutual interests and agreed principles," said the commission chief.

The free trade offer appears particularly designed to overcome the recent energy deadlock between Brussels and Moscow.

European politicians have repeatedly questioned Russia's reliability as an energy provider since Moscow briefly cut off gas supplies in January, but Moscow is at the same time complaining that the EU fences off its energy market to Russian firms.

The EU is trying to persuade Russian president Putin to ratify the Energy Charter Treaty, which would oblige Russia to open its oil and gas pipelines to foreign companies and competition – but Moscow is irritated by EU governments blocking its energy giant Gazprom from entering European energy markets.

Meanwhile, the new Finnish presidency of the EU has made EU-Russia ties one of its key priorities, with Finland's prime minister Matti Vanhanen saying the talks on the new trade and energy deal with Moscow would start next year.

"Our aim is that in November, when we have this EU-Russia summit, to make a decision to start official negotiations...and that negotiations would be done during 2007," he said on Monday according to media reports.

Helsinki is seeking a strengthening of the so-called Northern Dimension of the EU, referring to the specific co-operation between the EU's northern and Baltic member states - Iceland, Norway and Russia

But the new presidency is facing a tough task not to offend Russia-wary new member states such as Poland and the Baltic countries by getting too cosy with Moscow.

Apart from trade and energy, the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia also involves cooperation in justice and home affairs and external security, with the commission saying in a statement that it hopes the new agreement will also cover this "whole range" of areas.

Meanwhile, Russia has put forward proposals that its EU enclave of Kaliningrad could act as a pilot project for integrating the two powers.

Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag

EU leaders unveiled a €210bn strategy aiming to cut Russian gas out of the European energy equation before 2027 and by two-thirds before the end of the year — but questions remain on how it is to be financed.

MEPs raise ambition on EU carbon market reform

MEPs on the environment committee agreed on reform of the European carbon market — including expanding it to buildings and transport. They also want to extend the scope of the carbon border tax, and phase out free permits by 2030.

EU countries rush to expand gas import capacity

EU plans to quit Russian gas and replace it, in part, by importing overseas liquified natural gas has lead to a flurry of new gas projects — which threaten to lock in unnecessary gas use for decades.

Russia's war stifles EU pandemic recovery

The impact of Russia's war in Ukraine is being felt throughout the EU and the eurozone. The European Commission has downgraded its economic forecast to 2.7-percent growth this year.

Revealed: Big Oil shaped EU's gas-cutting strategy

Internal documents found EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and energy commissioner Kadri Simson coordinated their Russian gas cutting strategy with oil CEOs to determine which measures were "feasible".

Lagarde signals summer interest rate hike

European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde signalled an interest rate increase possibly as early as July, but some experts warn for a repeat of the 2011-2012 debt crisis.

News in Brief

  1. Finland expects cut in gas supply after Nato application
  2. Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands push offshore wind
  3. Turkey strong-arms Finland and Sweden on extraditions
  4. Sharp increase in irregular migration to EU
  5. Russia ejects 85 European diplomats
  6. Germany shuts ex-chancellor Schröder's office over Putin ties
  7. Russia soldier pleads guilty to Ukraine war crime
  8. EU to protect Finland and Sweden until they join Nato

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Nordic Bridges unveil latest highlights of Spring programme
  2. EU plans to jointly invest in defence capabilities
  3. EU and US keen to seize Russian funds for Ukraine
  4. EU to boost solar and renewables rollout to cut Russian gas
  5. Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag
  6. Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy
  7. Watchdog calls for tougher curbs on 'problematic' revolving doors
  8. Borrell: EU arms flow to Ukraine amid 'record' Russian losses

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us