If the EU really wants to be a “peace project” then Russia should join. This has been a popular suggestion on Debating Europe, with many readers sending in comments arguing it should happen (see, for example, here, here, here, here, and here).

On the one hand, the idea seems absurd. The Putin regime has annexed neighbouring countries, disrupted foreign elections, and assassinated Russian political dissidents on EU territory. Russia clearly does not meet the “Copenhagen criteria” for EU membership; it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when Russian democracy died, but today’s Russia is certainly not a democracy. Not to mention the fact that Russia seems more interested in regional integration through the Eurasian Economic Union than through closer economic and political ties with the EU.

On the other hand, is the possibility of EU membership for Russia really any more outlandish than the very idea of the EU itself? The notion that Germany and France – bitter rivals and enemies for centuries – could one day put differences aside and work together towards European integration also once surely seemed laughable.

Russia is a member of the Council of Europe. It has traditionally seen itself as historically, culturally, and politically part of Europe. Some have already argued (both in Russia and in the West) for Russia one day joining NATO. Not to mention, as French President Emmanuel Macron argued in February 2020, that the long-term collective security and stability of Europe depends upon engagement with Russia. There is no peace in Europe without Russia. Should EU membership be a long-term goal?

Should Russia one day join the European Union? Could the Russian Federation in future meet the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Photo by Iza Gawrych on Unsplash


48 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    UknownWarrior

    This is just an absurd question. I mean Russia is a great civilization and an Empire, but they simply are not part of Europe. Turkey is not part of Europe either.

    I do not believe that Russia will want to join NATO and to become an ally with the USA which is one of their main competitor on the international political scene.

    However Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova are part of Europe. Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan are also not part of Europe entirely.

    I think the next member states should be like Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein in 2025.

    Then in 2030 you should take Monaco, Andorra and San Marino.

    It is also important to invite Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. I think Europe should just take 100% countries in Europe, both geographically and culturally.

  2. avatar
    EU Reform-Proactive

    Even if I wished- such a dream remains one- as long as the EU hides behind its defenses of values, safety & legalities.
    The EU’s Pied Piper syndrome:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FULgBnb1byw

    The Copenhagen criteria are setting some impossible requirements for a free Russia. Why should it hand over its sovereignty & competences to the EU? Political arrogance and political suicide side by side? It states:

    • The EU reserves the right to decide when a candidate country has met these criteria and when the EU is ready to accept the new member.

    • and the acceptance of “all EU legislation

    One could define the EU as a shocking act of “separate European development”! Such words sound all too familiar. The mother body is the Council of Europe’s 47 members, founded on 5 May 1949- while the EU received a Cesarean section on 1st Nov 1993 in Maastricht. Maybe something to ponder about? Quote:

    • The EU reserves the right to decide when a candidate country has met these criteria and when the EU is ready to accept the new member.

    • and the acceptance of all EU legislation.

    Remember Oct. 2008? Vladimir Putin said that Russia joining the EU would not be in the interests of either Russia or the EU. What now?

    http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/world/news/27275/

    It would make economic & political sense for all 47 to find a compromise and make many citizens safer & proud of Europe.

    https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/russia/

    Why create false hopes? The prevailing Copenhagen criteria are impossible to comply with, diplomacy cannot infringe on the treaties and the EU is not going to change its treaties! An oxymoron “Clearly Confused”!

  3. avatar
    Stefanos

    Russia should not become a member of the EU. EU has to become a really democratic Union with common military…

  4. avatar
    Jevgeni

    I think it is a question to Russians if they want to be in EU – i doubt it But such idea has its point!

  5. avatar
    Христо

    Is this a joke? Russia is anti-European and anti-Western Empire. It has always been so. No Enlightment happened there.

  6. avatar
    Pedro

    I think basically it’s what was already commented here. If they really want and play by the rules and true spirit of EU (never really implemented but sounds good in paper )

  7. avatar
    Paul

    Russia would be quite at home in the EU…seems like a good time to have left it !!

  8. avatar
    Michael

    We should let Russia, USA, Brazil and China join the European Union, just to make it less boring. ;)

  9. avatar
    Jozsef

    First must Russia give back the Krim and the other occupied territories!

  10. avatar
    Dirk

    The people of Russia deserve to be part of the European family. The criminal gangs of the current Russian government can not perpetuate the custody of the Russian people. Freedom and democracy will prevail.

  11. avatar
    Ludwig

    After the red mafia left, it would be an excellent idea. Not for today.

  12. avatar
    Nikola

    Red Army parade in Berlin incoming. :D

    • avatar
      Dirk

      had that before

  13. avatar
    Natasha

    Why would Russia want to be governed from Brussels ?

    • avatar
      Dirk

      why do you live in Portugal?

    • avatar
      Natasha

      Why do you live in Germany ?

    • avatar
      Dirk

      because I love the country and support its values

    • avatar
      Natasha

      Good for you.

  14. avatar
    Cãlin

    If one day they will embrace democracy, accept the European Values and will accept a position as equal amongst the other European countries, maybe will join, but… sincerely, I don’t see it coming also for the reason that the moment it will comply with these issues it will dismantle. Still, it also has another thorn… China.

    • avatar
      Dee

      the EU is inherently antidemocratic

    • avatar
      Cãlin

      Yeah! I feel you, mate! Just because things doesn’t work the way I want or I don’t understand the big picture, makes me too think the same.

    • avatar
      Dee

      they have a shady history when it comes to referendums, nice and Lisbon treaties here in Ireland, the French and Dutch referendums on an EU constitution

    • avatar
      Cãlin

      this is because nobody wants an EU similar to the USA, therefore is highly bureaucratic, slow, and incapable to set a more direct election system. Why? Because of the corrupted governments and their satellites. They don’t “need” an entity that might pursue and punish their actions. Also, don’t take referendums as perfect ways to express political will. They too can lead often to aberrations. Direct democracy works best in small communities on relatively simple matters.

    • avatar
      Dee

      I have a big problem with the way the EU reruns referendums until it gets the desired result, it seems to only work one way, its pretty dubious democracy, in the EU a no vote is only temporary whilst a yes is forever

    • avatar
      Cãlin

      you should be more specific with that, but, anyway, I suggest to make an effort to try to see “the bigger picture”. Unfortunately this is not the place for such a long talk. It would have been better in front of some pints of Guinness… :-) I’m saying only to think about the fact that the European countries aren’t colonial powers anymore, their lead in technology is fading slowly, their population is getting older, the capital slowly leaked outside, their standards of living are relying on external resources, etc, meanwhile in other parts things are reversed. Just think about the challenges that this situation might bring in the future. Imagine you’d have a word to say for the future of an entire continent…

  15. avatar
    Angelina

    I would love that Russia would become part of EU, mentality of people not really different and in would make benefits for everyone?

  16. avatar
    Krystian

    Not because Russia, through its imperial policy, tends to make other states dependent on it and later tries to incorporate them into its own state. Russia is pursuing a brutal and aggressive policy towards its neighbors such as Georgia, Ukraine and Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Moldova. Russia does not respect the rights of national minorities in Chechnya, Tatarstan and other republics, homosexuals and opposition are harassed.

    • avatar
      Angelina

      sweetie you are brainwashed!! You are speaking with who words??!

  17. avatar
    O

    Rusland will first have to change gigantic qua politics

  18. avatar
    NewMan

    I have a better idea. Lets take Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein. They are rich and they can equalize the balance between poor and rich countries in Europe.

    I think that Switzerland will never joint the European Union given its history of neutrality.

    Ireland should be United. Northern Ireland belongs to the Republic of Ireland

  19. avatar
    UknownWarrior

    The next should be Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. Monaco, Andorra and San Marino should also should join the EU.

    After that Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. These countries are geographically and culturally part of Europe

  20. avatar
    Feliz

    Only democratic countries can join the EU. I hope that rule stands.

  21. avatar
    Imre

    I wish they would. With a proper democratic order of course.

    • avatar
      Isabella

      wow nice idea…

  22. avatar
    Jakub

    One day…..
    First they should stop fighting it for their unreal and non-existent superiority

  23. avatar
    daveratters

    Russia has 9 time zones and 145 million people – it would dominate the european parliament. And unfairly/undemocratically it would (assuming it joined now) have 1/28th (3.5%) of the law makers (commissioners) – whilst having 24% of the electorate. Assuming it was something it and the eu wanted it would be entirely unworkable with some serious systemic reforms.

  24. avatar
    Liam

    Russia joining the EU is only a matter of time, to be honest. Putin isn’t going to last forever, and what’s more, Russia is not going to be able to be strategically relevant indefinitely. Unlike, say, China, it doesn’t have a sufficiently massive population to be a global pole on its own, and what’s more, it’s economically moribund after sanctions. Even if the sanctions were reversed, the advent of greentech (between the Americans, the Chinese, and the other East Asians) is going to reduce demand for oil and gas.

    From a European perspective, the EU has grown wealthy by integrating states that once belonged to the Warsaw Pact. These former communist nations provided a source of cheap labor as well as an investment destination for the relatively moribund countries of Western and Central Europe; if the EU sees economic growth, it’s more likely to happen in Poland than in France, although Germany is a major exception.

    The Ukraine debacle happened because the EU was pushing into Russia and the United States, it appears, engineered a coup against the Russian puppet in Ukraine. However, at the present rate, it looks that there will eventually be a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine and the EU’s march eastwards will continue. Once that’s done, there’s nothing left for the EU to eat other than Russia itself.

    ===

    Considering these two centrifugal forces, Russia, in the long-run, will eventually be an EU member. If it does not want to join the EU, it can’t avoid the fact of its economic weakness and the fact that Putin is not immortal, as well as the EU’s economic heft promising investment and prosperity. It can choose to reject this and somehow “choose” China, but if it chooses China (in the long-run as opposed to the short-run), it will become a junior partner to a country 10 times its size. If it chooses the EU, in contrast, as others have mentioned, it will be of the populous countries in the EU and has a strong chance of being first-among-equals.

    And as for the EU, the EU will eventually run out of cheap labor. The Eastern European countries will have a comparable GDP per capita to Western European countries, even if only in PPP terms. Ukraine can be absorbed, but it’s a relatively small nibble (44 million people, less if the Russian secessionists get their way). The last bite, and the only substantial bite, would be Russia.

    In this context, why are the EU and Russia at such loggerheads? There are, obviously, major political and cultural factors (Russia’s gone full-hog on homophobia and anti-LGBT to arrest its declining birth rate), but at the same time, what we should be identifying is a struggle not over the fact of European integration, but the how of European integration. Russian political and economic elites do not want to give up their privileges should they join the EU, given that many of them came to power or wealth in corrupt manners. The European Union, on the other hand, does not want to absorb a corrupt cesspool for fear of contagion. The Russian challenge, then, is enabling their economic and political elites to join the EU without destroying themselves, and the EU challenge is to absorb Russia without abandoning its commitment to political and social principles.

    The next 30-50 years, then, is a struggle over the terms in which Russia is allowed to join the EU. It will take Russia 30-50 years to clean up its government and look “clean” enough for the EU to take them seriously, and about the same amount of time for Russian economic elites to go into the second generation and be able to hide the dirty ways they came into money. At the same time, it will take another 30-50 years before the EU runs through the economic growth potential of its immediate new acquisitions and ends up facing a choice between irrelevance or absorbing Russia in the face of other rising powers like China, India, and perhaps even the African Union. And throughout this time, the Russians will constantly be trying to negotiate “we’re clean enough, we’re respectable enough”, while the EU will constantly be trying to negotiate “you need to clean up more, you need to be more respectable”.

    ===

    This analysis comes from an American of Chinese descent, but I honestly have to say I have a soft-spot for Europe. European countries, while recognizably crass by their own denizens, are not crass by American standards. Living standards in the EU are very high, even if overall wealth is not comparable to the United States. Compared to China, on the other hand, European countries tend to be democracies that, unlike the United States, can provide a high standard of living without massive inequality.

    I hope people from both countries wish the European Union and Russia well on both their long engagement, and what we hope to be an eventual happy marriage. When I was a teenager, my father took me on trips through Europe. I was amazed by the eventual emergence of the Euro, as well as fairly uniform standards of goods, services, as well as the general lifestyles. When I have my own children, I hope to be able to take them on roadtrips through the entire Northern part of the Eurasian supercontinent and cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific without ever leaving the Schengen Area.

    Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
    Tochter aus Elysium…

    (Yeah, I know the EU anthem has no lyrics).

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