VIENNA, January 21 (Itar-Tass) —— The outlook for relations between Europe and Russia after the forthcoming presidential election were the focus of attention at Friday’s international conference Central Europe and the Russian Federation – A Dialogue for Partnership. In the context of the continuing financial crisis in Europe, delegates to the forum said, Russia is becoming an ever more important factor for European economic stability.
The president of the Association of Austrian Industrialists, Veit Sorger, said that Austria had discovered in Russia a vast and booming market for its products and invested about 60 billion euros in the Russian economy since 1999.
“Russia is of great importance to our industry,” he said. “We can only envy the growth rates Russia has. This year there will be four-percent growth, while Austria can afford no more than 1 percent.”
Russia’s ambassador to Austria, Sergei Nechayev, addressed the participants in the forum with a message of greeting. He drew special attention to the importance of regional cooperation between Russia and Austria.
The director of Russia’s national public opinion studies center VTSIOM, Valery Fyodorov, touched upon the theme of the forthcoming presidential election.
In his opinion, Vladimir Putin’s rating as it is (over one month it had been up from 42 percent to 52 percent) one might expect his comfortable victory in the first round, because in case of the expected 70-percent turnout Putin might get 56-57 percent of the votes. He believes that Putin will have a two-fold advantage over the runner-up. At the same time he added that about 25 percent of the electorate – supporters of the Communist Party and the LDPR and non-systemic opposition were firmly against Putin and would not recognize the legitimacy of his victory under any circumstance. The VTSIOM chief said the level of Russians’ social optimism was rather high, although the condition of the economy left much to be desired.
US political scientist Anthony Salvia, who had been present at the State Duma elections in the capacity of observer, believes that the latest election was the most transparent and free since perestroika. He believes that Putin had achieved a lot in terms of ensuring high economic growth rates in Russia and also did a good job as the head of state. His election as Russia’s president would bring closer pan-European integration. In his opinion, Putin is the man in Russia’s political scene who is capable of making the country stronger and paving the way for a rapprochement.
Israeli parliament member Faina Kirschenbaum called for preserving stability for the sake of strengthening security in the continent. In her opinion, Putin is the sole leader who can be relied on in that respect. It would be very wrong to measure democracy in different countries with the same yardstick, she said. Democracy in Russia is young, but the people have a chance to take to the streets and they are free to express their opinion, she said.
Austria’s former vice-chancellor, Erhard Busek, confirmed that Russia had always been a historical partner of his country in political terms, but the relations between the two states saw a particular improvement during the presidencies of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. Also, during Putin’s presidency there was a rapprochement between Russia and Europe.
“Austria’s business community takes a pro-Putin position, because it just cannot imagine that somebody else would be able to guarantee the stable development of our relations.”
The participants in the conference, State Duma member Alexander Babakov said to summarize its results, stated that these days political stability in Russia was becoming an ever more serious factor for the economic security of Europe. He is certain there is no doubt that not a single presidential candidate in Russia other than the current prime minister will be able to guarantee that stability, which is particularly important in the context of growing political turbulence in Europe.