Russian participants described the development
of Russia's economic policy in its neighbourhood as characterized by inertia for much of the
post-Soviet period. The creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) was the first positive sign of
a more proactive Russian policy. As one Russian participant put it, Moscow was able to come up with
a project like the EEU only when the EU and the US became a real challenge in the neighbourhood.
Russian speakers stressed the progress the EEU has achieved so far, both in terms of enlargement and
deepening integration. Special attention was given to emerging contractual relations with third
countries, for instance a free trade agreement with Vietnam (2016) and, more recently, a
preferential trade agreement with China (2017). The latter, even though much more modest in scale
than a free trade agreement, was seen as a major achievement that would pave the way for deeper
cooperation in the future. On a more sceptical note, one Russian speaker observed that the EEU's
contribution to Russian growth was rather small and unlikely to grow in the future.
speakers were very critical about the role played by the EU in the common neighbourhood.
Unsurprisingly, the key bone of contention in this part of the discussion was Ukraine. Russian
participants claimed that Brussels' refusal to grant Russia access to the DCFTA negotiations with
Kyiv was the main cause of the current crisis. In the words of one speaker, the EU had told Russia
"our business with Ukraine is not your business; but in fact the substance of the [DCFTA]
negotiations was our business, and now it is the business of the whole world". Nonetheless they
stressed that both Russia and the EU should continue to explore opportunities for cooperation
between the EU and the EEU and listed a number of potential areas where such cooperation might be
pursued, such as joint responses to China's Belt and Road Initiative, the reactivation of
EU-Ukraine-Russian (EEU) negotiations, including on economic reconstruction for the war-affected
areas in the Donbass.