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ROME, July 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --
The Russian presidential elections and the likely candidacy of Vladimir Putin was discussed at a conference of European political leaders in Rome today (Wednesday).
European politicians answered questions about Mr Putin and the elections, which will be held next March, in the context of the impact on wider EU-Russian international relations.
Mr Putin was recognised as the front-runner in Russian politics at the moment and all sides called for the elections to be held in an open and democratic way."
Bernard Kouchner, former foreign minister of France, told the conference at the Italian Senate: "It seems Vladimir Putin has the majority of public support in Russia - I think everybody recognises that - but we will have to wait for the elections. And it is important the elections are pluralistic and take place in a democratic way."
He added: "For cultural and geographic reasons the EU and Russia have to respect each other - and the issues which join us and separate us. We have made some progress but we need to work together to make more progress."
Jiry Paroubek, former prime minister of the Czech Republic, said: "Mr Putin is the strongest personality in Russian politics and I see it is a very good phenomenon that he might come back.
As well Mr Kouchner and Mr Paroubek, other international politicians included Alexander Babakov, deputy Speaker of the Russian Duma and Michael Ancram, a member of the House of Lords in the UK.
From Italy, the president of the Italian Senate, Renato Schifani, Emma Marcegaglia, president of Confindustria, and Rossana Boldi, chair of the Political Commission of the European Union participated.
Senator Benedetto Adragna said: " If the Russians elect Vladimir Putin we will be glad."
Senator Laura Bianconi, vice-president of the majority PDL group in the Senate, said: "2012 will be a very important year in Russia as it goes to the elections, which Europe will look at with particular attention.
"The democratic revolution started by Vladimir Putin brought the Russian people to participate in the economic and political modernisation of the Russian system. This system will not rely only on oil and gas but on a modernisation programme which will connect the people to the other European countries."
Other Italian speakers include Raffaele Bonanni, general secretary of the CISL trade union, Michaela Biancofore MP and secretary of the Foreign Affairs Commission in the Italian chamber of deputies, and Professor Vittorio Sgarbi speaking on the role of art and culture in bringing countries closer together.
The conference, titled 'Relations between Russia and the EU after 2012', was jointly hosted by the Italian Senate and the Universita Europea del Mediterraneo (UNIMED).
Notes to editors
The conference took place on Wednesday July 6 at the Italian Senate in Rome.