This meeting kicked off a new series of events of the EU-Russia Expert Network on Foreign Policy (EUREN). Building on the foundation and trust that have grown over the last four years, EUREN will strive to further deepen the connections between its members, facilitate cooperation within the network and generate relevant interventions and ideas for the future of the EU-Russia relationship. Against the backdrop of tense relations between the EU and Russia, the relevance of EUREN has only grown.
In the first half of 2021, several crises emanated from three familiar trouble spots. First, there was new controversy linked to Russia's domestic policy: The imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and the increasing pressure on Russia's civil society led to new EU sanctions, which were answered by Russia with counter-sanctions and the expulsion of EU diplomats during a Moscow visit by High Representative Josep Borrell in February. Secondly, the confrontation between Prague and Moscow in April served as a reminder of the political disruption that new allegations about Russian secret service operations within the EU can trigger. Thirdly, the fate of EU-Russia relations remains intrinsically linked to the unresolved crises in the common neighbourhood. This again became clear during tensions linked to Russia's military build-up at Ukraine's borders as well as the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has begun to reshape U.S. foreign policy, marking a clear contrast to the era of Donald Trump. The change in Washington is impacting EU-Russia relations as well. Although Russian and EU perspectives on the new U.S. policies differ, greater predictability should be in the interest of both sides, and the new administration could also make some forms of EU-Russia selective engagement easier, such as on JCPOA or climate change.