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    PRODI SPEAKS ON RUSSIAN REFORMS

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    MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi considers Vladimir Putin's victory at the presidential elections the result of economic growth, stability achieved in the country and reforms.

    "President Putin's victory at the elections is the result of economic progress achieved for the last four years, stability, economic growth and vital reforms," Mr. Prodi said while delivering a lecture in Moscow.

    In his words, the EU highly appreciates tremendous work underway in Russia.

    The EU, Prodi said, consistently supports the process of reforms in Russia, using technical assistance within the TACIS program. In particular, he said, over 2.6 billion euros have been allocated as technical assistance to Russia since 1991.

    Romano Prodi noted that Russia's leadership realizes the necessity to fix and develop the success reached in the economy. "Mr. Putin set the ambitious tasks of doubling the GDP by 2010 and reducing by half the number of poor people for three years. The president is right when he stresses that all Russian society will gain from the economic growth," said the EC chairman.

    "Now Russia must increase investments, diversify the economy, raise competitiveness on the international level and guarantee the bases for long-term stable growth," Mr. Prodi believes.

    The EU attaches much importance to the preservation of pluralism in Russia's mass media and the strengthening of free political competition, he added.

    "We welcome President Putin's promise to strengthen the multi-party system, civil society and freedom of mass media," he said.

    In his words, the EU is concerned over the situation in Chechnya, especially in regard to human rights. He recalled that the European Commission participates in the work to alleviate all aspects of the humanitarian situation that appeared as a result of this conflict.

    "Through our office for humanitarian aid since the beginning of the second conflict in 1999, we allocated for the needs of humanitarian assistance in the North Caucasus 125 million euros. 60% of these means are sent to Chechnya, and this figure will increase in the future," the EC head said.

    Romano Prodi touched upon the Kyoto protocol issue. He again expressed hope that Russia will ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change after the completion of an overwhelming internal examination, Mr. Prodi said.

    "There is no other mechanism to fight against the anthropogenic reasons of global climate change. We are also sure that the protocol ratification meets Russia's environmental and economic interests. Russia will gain from 'mechanisms of flexibility' envisaged in the protocol," Mr. Prodi said.

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