The EU including Austria is undertaking efforts to strengthen ties with the Russian Federation based on the concept of a strategic partnership.
Trade relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation have intensified in particular since the enlargements of the EU in 2004 and 2007. To dated Russia is the EU’s most important trading partner: 60% of all Russian exports (most of it oil and gas) go to the EU.
As a result business opportunities on both sides as well as political ties between the EU and the Russian Federation could be harnessed more extensively. A number of fora for dialogue and comprehensive co-operation processes have been established at all levels including EU-Russia Summits at the highest level. The purpose of these summit meetings is to discuss ways and means of further developing mutual relations. To that end the EU-Russia Summit of May 2005 adopted the road maps for the implementation of the Four Common Spaces (the Common Economic Space; the Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice; the Common Space of External Security; and the Common Space of Research, Education and Culture), each of which will contribute substantially to further promoting the strategic partnership between the EU and Russia.
A changing political environment has made necessary adjustments of the legal and institutional framework. As a result negotiations were started on an agreement which will replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which was scheduled to expire in 2007. Negotiations on the New Agreement are ongoing. At their summit in June 2010 the EU and Russia agreed on a "Modernisation Partnership" which focuses on civil society, rule of law and the fight against corruption.
In May 2011 Austria concluded a bilateral agreement with Russia on the Modernisation Partnership which complements the existing Modernisation Partnership of Russia and the EU as well as other Member States.
On December 16, 2011 the WTO Ministers agreed on the WTO accession of Russia. Russia's WTO membership is an important step for Russia towards a free trade agreement between the EU and the Russian Federation.
The initiative launched by the Russian Federation on a new European security treaty has been discussed in detail in the framework of the OSCE. At the OSCE Summit in Astana (December 2010) a decision was taken to elaborate step-by-step, a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian Security Community. The OSCE Chairs Ireland (2012) and Ukraine (2013) are due to implement this decision.
The domestic and foreign policy of the Russian Federation
Parliamentary elections took place in the Russian Federation on December 4, 2011. For the first time the Party of Prime Minister Putin (“United Russia”) could not gain the absolute majority and received only 49,5% of the votes. At the presidential elections of March 4, 2012 Vladimir Putin was elected with 63% of the votes and was inaugurated as Russia’s new (former) President for the next six years on May 7, 2012.
Russian foreign policy is focused on Eurasia. Maintaining good relations with the CIS member states is still a top priority. At the meeting of the Council of the Heads of Government of the CIS Members on October 18, 2011, eight countries, namely Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, signed a treaty on the establishment of a Free Trade Area. In Moscow on November 18, 2011 the Presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed a declaration on the promotion of the (economic) integration between their countries. The final goal should be the creation until 2015 of a Eurasian Economic Union on the basis of the existing customs union between the three countries. The Customs Union has been changed into a Common Economic space in January 2012. The war with Georgia in the year 2008 demonstrated clearly, that the Russian Federation intends to keep its influence on its immediate neighbours and refuses a rapprochement of Georgia and Ukraine to NATO. At the same time Russia underlines its influential role in searching solutions to regional conflicts, an element which is also important to the EU when it comes to defining its strategic partnership with Russia. Concerning Eurasia Moscow’s second priority is its relationship with the European Union and its Member States. The relations with the United States have improved considerably since the beginning of the Obama administration. Early February 2011 the United States and Russia concluded the ratification process of an agreement replacing the former START agreement (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty).