EU Internal Tensions Frustrate Normalization with Russia

Despite the Valdai Club report’s optimism, the EU’s internal difficulties could make restoring relations with Russia more difficult.

On May 17, in Brussels, the Valdai Discussion Club presented its report, “Russia and the EU: what options for a retuning of relations?” According to Vincent Della Sala, adjunct professor of European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Trento, Italy, the report made many correct conclusions, although many internal challenges remain within the EU itself.

The Valdai Club report on Russia-EU relations is generally in agreement with EU studies on the future relations, according to Professor Vincent Della Sala, who analyzes relations as part of the Jean Monnet European Centre.

The Jean Monnet European Centre, which conducts European Union studies, is curated by the EU’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency. Prof. Della Sala is an academic coordinator for the project at the University of Trento, Italy.

“What came out in our project was very similar to what the Valdai report said, in particular,that we need to go beyond hardened positions and recognize that there are common concerns that we have to face,” Della Sala said.

He noted that in the case of the EU, it would be important to become less dogmatic about certain principles, such as democratization, in order to achieve successful relations with Russia, and, generally, with states which he called the EURICCA, an acronym for EU, Russia, Iran, China and Central Asian countries.

Della Sala noted that in his project’s “Beyond Vilnius” report, the key priority was a focus on similar policy concerns and how to address them, rather than a focus on political differences. Those policy questions include the environment, security, energy and migration, among others.

Giving praise to the Valdai Club report, Della Sala warned that despite the report’s optimism, the EU’s internal difficulties could make restoring relations more difficult.

“I think, in many ways, it showed better understanding of the European Union than the European Union understands itself, but also it’s very optimistic with respect to the European Union. I think this is a very difficult moment in the European Union and that this, in a sense, is paralyzing the EU as an actor,” Della Sala said.

He noted that the report is also correct in that there will be more of an emphasis on the pragmatic concerns of both sides. That, according to Della Sala, will show that Russia and the EU have more in common, than what divides them.

Della Sala also noted that the EU is currently undergoing a difficult period because of its internal divisions.

“I think this must make it very difficult for Russia or anyone else to interact with the European Union, because it really is consumed by internal tensions. Hopefully, we will get over this crisis, and then we will be a much better partner to deal with. Again, it must be very frustrating for those on the outside to deal with,” Della Sala concluded.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.