Chapter 9: The impact of the Eurasian Customs Union on EU–Russia relations
The Grand Narrative of EU–Russia relations since their inception in the early 1990s has been the EU’s repeated attempts at ‘constructive engagement’ with a view to ‘binding’ or ‘tying’ Russia closer into Europe and its key institutions. These attempts at inclusion have nevertheless always had a rather uneasy coexistence with exclusion: at no point has Russia been deemed a serious candidate for full accession to any of the leading European bodies, be it the European Union or NATO. This exclusionary dynamic, which more recently has increasingly been gaining features of wanton self-exclusion by Russia itself, has been a factor that has hampered the achievement of some of the EU’s strategic objectives vis-à-vis Russia. The main underlying objective for the EU in its dealings with Russia has revolved around attempts at tying the country into an EU-centric – or, alternatively, concentric – order. In this reading ‘Brussels’ and its institutions are the unipole with Russia envisaged as a more or less passive recipient of norms, values and a whole gamut of policy best practices originating in and promoted by the EU. It should be pointed out that although Russia has been granted several privileges by the EU – such as a role of special ‘strategic partner’ as well as a much more lenient application of political conditionality in the process – in essence, Moscow has been subjected to the same objectives, principles and policies as the rest of the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood.
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