Committed to academic excellence, interdisciplinary exchange and international cooperation, the Centre for EU-Russia Studies has four interrelated objectives:
- conducting high-quality research in the field of EU-Russia studies, combining scientific skills with in-depth knowledge of the geographical areas concerned;
- providing instruction and training in the field of EU-Russia studies at all levels of study;
- converting research expertise to applied research, policy advice and consulting;
- providing input and stimulus to societal debates.
EU-Russia relations is an area of acute interest to governments, European institutions, and think-tanks worldwide. The strategic partnership that is crucially important for both sides remains, in many respects, underdeveloped and problematic. In the legal domain, the two parties still work on the basis of the outdated Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, concluded in 1994. Agreements, common spaces and road maps, which are supposed to be there to facilitate interaction and to provide rules on how to handle conflicts, usually remain dormant and are only invoked in political declarations. The parties have declared the intention to develop the Partnership for Modernisation as the new general framework for their relations, but major differences will remain as to its interpretation. The increasing value gap, reflected in models of political and economic development chosen by the EU and the Russian Federation, raises doubts about the ability of the parties to forge a relationship based on mutual trust. However, geographical proximity, coupled with interaction and interdependence, create an objective need for close dialogue and cooperation in a range of issue areas including trade, energy, security, environment, etc.
The EU-Russia relationship merits close attention and scrutiny also because of uncertainty about the future. In the next few years, the EU will most likely continue to find itself in a situation of a double crisis – constitutional (due to the ongoing search for a balance between the intergovernmental and supranational institutions) and economic. Russia will also remain in the state of transformation, with the 2011–12 parliamentary and presidential elections being a crucial milestone. In the medium perspective, Russia’s modernisation project will yield some results. If it is successful, it will diversify Russia’s economy and make society more open, thus bringing it closer to Europe. It can also lead to a failure, possibly in a very dramatic way. In any event, the experience of the EU-Russia modernisation effort will need to be examined, and its consequences assessed. It is possible that the EU will go through another round of enlargement and further constitutionalisation, which, in turn, will have its impact on the European neighbourhood. The international system is likely to undergo significant changes both at the European level and globally, with the rise of the new major powers. All these developments will shape research agendas, university curricula and create ever greater public demand for insightful analysis and commentary.
For reasons related to geography and history, the development of the EU-Russia relationship is a matter of utmost importance for Estonia, for the other Baltic states, and for countries in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood. The future of the Estonian state and society is intertwined with the development and transformation of these two major international players, as well as the evolution of their problem-laden strategic partnership. The importance of the evolving EU-Russia relationship for Estonia translates into an imperative to have access to objective, up-to-date information, insightful interpretation and rigorous analysis. Finally, EU-Russian relations are likely to remain a highly controversial and contested issue area for the foreseeable future, not least because the 27 member states have very different positions and preferences.