The Perks of an Unlikely Couple: Why Cooperation between the EU and Russia in Central Asia is Worth Considering

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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The European Union (EU) and Russia may seem strange bedfellows in Central Asia given the ongoing geopolitical rivalry between them.

However, starting from the double observation that they share an interest in a stable, prosperous and secure Central Asia, and that they have very complementary expertise and capabilities in areas in which they are both already active, this policy brief argues that cooperation between the EU and Russia holds significant potential in terms of amplifying their contribution to the stability and prosperity of the region.

After outlining the EU’s and Russia’s common interests in Central Asia, as well as the formal basis for possible cooperation, this policy brief identifies opportunities for cooperation through both bilateral and multilateral channels. Possible areas for cooperation include soft security issues (e.g. drugs trafficking and water management), hard security issues (e.g. the fight against extremism), and sustainable development.

The policy brief ends by highlighting the barriers for actual cooperation before offering concrete policy recommendations on how to overcome these obstacles.