Political relations

Political dialogue between France and Russia has been limited following the annexation of Crimea, by the introduction by the European Union of sanctions against Russia and Russia’s suspension from the G8. However, the authorities maintain regular dialogue at the highest level with Russia, in particular for the resolution of the crisis in Ukraine. The presence of President Putin in France on 5 and 6 June 2014 to commemorate the D-day landings was an important step to renew dialogue with Russia and established the Normandy Format (France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine) for resolving the Ukrainian crisis. The meeting between President Hollande and President Putin on 6 December 2014 in Russia was a breakthrough in the dialogue for resolving the crisis, just as the French President’s visit to Moscow on 6 February 2015 which opened the way for negotiations and the signing of the “Package of Measures for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements" adopted in Minsk on 12 February 2015. The French and Russian Presidents had a bilateral meeting on the occasion of the Normandy Summit of 2 October. Furthermore, political contacts have taken place regularly in recent years: Presidents Hollande and Putin met for the first time in Paris on 1 June 2012 (as well as Foreign Ministers Laurent Fabius and Sergey Lavrov) during a visit to Europe of the Russian Head of State, and President Hollande made a working visit to Moscow on 28 February 2013.

At government level, the bilateral relationship has been structured every year for 18 years at prime minister level by the Franco-Russian Intergovernmental Seminar (which last convened on 1 November 2013 in Moscow), and by the French-Russian Cooperation Council on Security Issues which held its last session on October 2012 in Paris. In the economic sphere, the Franco-Russian Economic, Financial, Industrial and Trade Council (CEFIC), which last met in Paris on 30 September 2013 and was chaired by the French Minister of Foreign Trade and her Russian counterpart, usually meets once a year. The Russian Minister of Economic Development, Mr Alexey Ulyukaev, met in Paris with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry, on 8 and 9 September 2015. The Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll visited Russia during an agricultural fair on 8 and 9 October 2015 and met with his Russian counterpart.

As part of the preparation of COP 21, Ms Laurence Tubiana, Special Representative of France for this Conference, and Mr Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the President of the French Republic for the Protection of the Planet, visited Moscow from 15 to 18 March 2015; Ms Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, visited Russia from 26 to 28 October 2015.
There are intensive relations at parliamentary level: in addition to the numerous visits of French Deputies and Senators to Russia, the last Main French-Russian Parliamentary Committee meeting was held in Paris in February 2013.

Economic relations

In 2014, France was the third-largest European supplier of Russia (behind Germany and Italy), with a 3.76% market share. France’s trade balance with Russia is structurally in deficit (minus €3.6 billion) due to the very large share of oil and refined petroleum products in our imports from Russia (83%). French exports have increased more than fourfold in 13 years (from €1.8 billion in 2000 to €7.7 billion in 2013). They are mainly high value-added goods. The French supply focuses on the following sectors: mechanical, electronic and computer equipment (25.5% of French exports in 2014), transport (23.1%) and chemical products, perfumes and cosmetics (17.8%). Russia was one of the top three recipients of French FDI flows in 2013 (it was 10th in 2010). In 2013 French FDI stocks in Russia reached €19 billion and net FDI flows €1.9 billion. French investment is very diverse: in agrifood, the automotive industry, transport (SAFRAN), the financial sector (where France is the largest foreign investor in Russia, with in particular Société Générale), energy (Total, ENGIE and EDF) and distribution (Auchan is the leading foreign player in that area).

Nevertheless, the Ukrainian crisis has made the bilateral trade relationship unpredictable on a lasting basis. French-Russian trade reached €17 billion in 2014, a 6.6% decrease compared to 2013. This decrease is mainly due to the decline in French exports to Russia (-12.1% to €6.7 billion). French imports of Russian products also declined slightly over the period (-2.6% to €10.3 billion).

These changes have stemmed from:

  • Russian retaliatory measures: the one-year ban by Russia from August 2014 on imports from an itemized list of agrifood products in response to Western sanctions has, according to French Customs, caused a 23% fall in French exports of agricultural and agrifood products to Russia from €760 million in 2013 to €586 million in 2014;
  • Western sanctions against Russia, which have virtually stalled financial exchanges between Russia and the EU with a direct effect on projects of French companies in Russia in the three sectors concerned (defence, financial and energy sectors), and an indirect effect (postponement of investment decisions);
  • The fall in oil prices (-50% in one year) and of the rouble, which has negatively impacted French companies in Russia as their development was partly based on the dynamics of consumption in Russia.

The French-Russian economic relationship remains characterized by France’s will to provide a diversification of economic links. A bilateral labour migration agreement to facilitate the conditions of residence of our expatriates (visas and work permits) was signed during the Rambouillet Intergovernmental Seminar in November 2009 and entered into force on 1 March 2011.

The appointment of Mr Jean-Pierre Chevènement as Special Representative of the French government to Russia by the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2012 showed the attention paid by France to its trade relations with Russia.

See also:

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

French cooperation policy in Russia is implemented in the following areas:

  • Exchanges, whether involving students (mobility promoted by an active scholarship policy; France is the 3rd most popular destination for Russian students), researchers (partnerships between research institutes) or more generally the dialogue with civil society and elites (study visits on migration or on the rights of detainees and reintegration, the conference "Migration: the approach of Russia and France" held in in St. Petersburg October 2014 with researchers, officials, representatives of NGOs, etc.). These exchanges are supported by the efforts made to promote the use of the partner’s language and the dialogue among cultures. Thus, the bilateral agreement on the learning of the partner’s language signed in 2004 contributed to the opening in September 2009 of international Russian sections in French high schools (in Strasbourg, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Bordeaux, and Nice, including a section at the International College since 2014);
  • Promoting the attractiveness of France, which requires extending activities to the regions (Fourth French-Russian Decentralized Cooperation Meeting in Nice in December 2012); university and scientific cooperation with the introduction of dual degrees (more than 150, France is the leader in this respect) and a general agreement on the recognition of diplomas; the development of training programmes in partnership with businesses; the opening of many visa centres in Russian regions;
  • Support for reforms in Russia, especially in the administration (exchanges on juvenile justice, public-private partnerships, urban transport, regional development, support for SMEs), and the economic framework (see participation in the presidential programme of management training and the signing of a new agreement on business managers in November 2014).

The France-Russia cross year 2010 (with nearly 350 events) helped boost our bilateral relations, open up new prospects for cooperation and foster exchange reciprocity. The Russian and French Language and Literature Cross-Seasons 2012 followed on from these exchanges. This trend continued in 2013 (cinema, theatre) and 2014 (visual arts, with the Ilya and Emilia Kabakov exhibition on "The Strange City" (Monumenta 2014) in May-June at the Grand Palais in Paris) and with the "France-Russia cultural meetings 2013-2014" established after the signing in November 2012 of a statement of intent on pursuing French-Russian cultural exchanges.

In general, exchanges between French and Russian institutional actors are dynamic in many areas: Health (Third French-Russian Health Conference in St Petersburg in June 2014); Agriculture (Third Franco-Russian Forum on Agricultural Training and Science in Moscow in May 2014); Transport (2nd meetings on enterprises/research/training in the field of rail transport, Paris, March 2015), First French-Russian Forum on aeronautics and space training and research); Tourism (Irkutsk meetings, June 2014); Law (legal symposiums: Franco-Russian Administrative Law Days, January 2014, University of Clermont Ferrand. Joint Seminar of the High Council of French Notariat and the Federal Notary Chamber (FNC) of the Russian Federation, Moscow, September 2015. Last joint Committee on the protection of the rights of the child in the context of family disputes (in October 2015); Science: meeting of French-Russian Committee for Science and Technology in June 2015). These exchanges ensure the sharing of experience and better mutual understanding between the two countries.

Also visit the website of the French Institutes in Russia (in French and Russian)

Updated: 02/11/2015