A wide range of issues was discussed at the meeting, including implementation of the May 2012 Presidential Executive Orders and 2013 Annual Address to the Federal Assembly, integration of Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation, and issues concerning local government.
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Speech at meeting with Council of Legislators
President OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, colleagues.
We marked Parliamentarism Day yesterday. The celebrations were not especially noticeable, but I want to mention it anyway and congratulate you on this occasion – Russian Parliamentarism Day.
Let me recall that the decision to mark this date was in tribute to the huge importance of the Parliament and its work in laying the Russian Federation’s legislative foundations and in building our country in general, guaranteeing genuine democracy and affirming the principles of federalism. This occasion recognises the consolidating role that the legislative branch at all levels plays for our citizens, society and the country’s regions. I congratulate you and sincerely wish you and your colleagues success.
We will be looking today at how the regions are implementing the objectives set out in the Address to the Federal Assembly. I note in this respect that many regions have taken a thorough and responsible approach to this work and have reflected on and drafted regional development plans. I want to hear from you today about how these plans are being implemented and what problems and difficulties you have encountered.
Let me make special mention too of the fact that new members of the Council of Legislators, representing Crimea and Sevastopol, are taking part in our meeting. It is a pleasure to welcome them here. Good afternoon to you, and I hope that you will take an active part in our work. Let me stress that our priority is first and foremost people, their needs and hopes.
The federal authorities are doing everything possible right now to ensure that these new Russian regions adapt and integrate as rapidly as possible into our country’s common economic, social, humanitarian and legal space. It is in order to achieve this aim that we are putting together the necessary legislative base at federal and regional level. We discussed this in detail at a recent meeting of the Federation Council’s Board.
The basic laws have already been passed: the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and Charter of the City of Sevastopol, which set out government organisation and the different bodies’ powers and principles of work in accordance with Russian legislation. The two new constituent entities will now have to pass a package of their own regional laws and they will probably find the experience of other Russian regions useful in this work. I hope that through contact between you all, your new colleagues will be able to get many useful ideas.
There are approaches that have proved their worth when it comes to laws for the economy, social sector and supporting business. There is good practice that has demonstrated its effectiveness. I ask you to share all of this legal practice and experience with your new colleagues.
Colleagues, at our past meetings we said that the Council of Legislators should become a platform not just for exchanging new ideas and best practice from the regions, these things I just mentioned. It is also important to use it as an opportunity for putting legislative initiatives that you propose and submit to the Federal Assembly through a preliminary ‘zero’ reading.
We know after all that regional legislators’ proposals often fail to find the necessary support in the national parliament, unfortunately. This is something we have talked about before. It’s not that these proposals are not of national importance or are out of touch with real life. On the contrary, everything that you propose is linked to real events and real life.
The problem lies elsewhere. Practice and analysis of the draft laws submitted shows that these initiatives, regrettably, have not always been sufficiently thoroughly worked through at the expert level. They have many technical legal problems. But these are things that can and should be fixed through work together.
The Council also has a very relevant role to play as a lobbyist in the positive sense of the word, lobbying the regions’ interests. Many regions propose similar legislative initiatives on one and the same problems. If the Council members go through these initiatives and consolidate them into one rather than having them all submitted separately, they would definitely have a lot more weight in the State Duma.
Clearly, we must make quality and efficiency of the legislative process our priority. A proposal might be perfectly rational at its core, but because the drafting has produced a document that is still rough, vague and insufficiently polished into shape, it either gets shelved, put aside, or gets sent back for redrafting, expansion, additions, and this wastes time and can even end up distorting the proposal’s original sense.
One example is the draft federal law on amendments to some Russian laws on federal monitoring of forests. There are quite a few examples of this kind.
Another topical issue on our agenda today is the way local government is organised. I spoke about the need for change in this area in my Address to the Federal Assembly in December.
Your colleagues who also represent the National Council for Local Self-Government and the National Congress of Municipalities submitted to the State Duma a draft law that would make substantial change in this area.
The aim is to bring the local authorities closer to the public and make their work more transparent and efficient. The aim is also to get the public more involved in resolving municipal tasks and problems.
You know that the draft law has already passed its first reading. You are all familiar with the document of course, and I would like to hear your views on it today.
Implementing the May  Executive Orders is another matter on the agenda today. Their implementation has a direct impact on raising our people’s quality of life and is therefore being closely monitored at federal level. This same kind of work should continue in the regions.
The legislative assemblies have the right to hear an annual report from the regional heads. I ask you during these meetings to put particular emphasis on the May Executive Orders’ implementation and demand clear answers from the regional heads about the work that has been done.
This means clear answers about what is being done to restructure the healthcare, education and culture sectors and raise wages in these sectors, and – no less important – what is being done to balance budgets and how much money is being allocated for regional development.
I want to draw to your attention one particularly important point: it is not enough to simply raise wages. Extensive methods won’t work here. What is needed is clear, rational and carefully planned restructuring of sectors so as to make them more cost-effective.
This is a complicated and difficult process. By no means should we just blunder in, slash the numbers, and toss people out into the street. We need to restructure, make timely investment in creating new jobs and getting people into new employment.
It makes no sense to just blindly pump money into these sectors. This way, we will never achieve efficiency and people will never be happy with the quality of services in education, healthcare, and other social sector areas.
Colleagues, this is the first time that the Council of Legislators is meeting outside Moscow. We are meeting in Karelia today and I think this is a good practice. I hope that Karelia’s authorities will tell us today about the situation here.
Karelia is home to many single-industry towns, and so we will be meeting today with our colleagues from the Government too, to discuss developing and supporting these towns, restructuring their economies and so on. Each region has its own specific circumstances, but at the same time there are points in common too. I hope this practice will continue.
Our defence industry cooperation with our Ukrainian partners is very important for Russia’s defence sector, but it is of absolutely crucial importance for Ukraine’s defence industry.
The difference between the two countries is that Russia and its defence industry have the financial resources and technological level to find replacements for what we currently import. This would require some time and additional money.
How much time would it take? Depending on the types of goods, it would take from 1.5 to 2.5 years. We already have a rough idea of the costs involved and strange though it may seem, they are not so big and the budget would be able to support them. In these circumstances we would probably have to adjust the state defence procurement orders to the right a little, as the financial specialists say, but this would not be by much.
We will not revise the state defence procurement orders, such revision would not be needed, but some money could be freed up, including money from the Government reserves, which are sufficient for covering Crimea’s current problems and for these purposes too.
Breaking ties with Russian partners would have a devastating effect on Ukraine’s defence industry though. The reason for this is that they have no other sales market. The Russian armed forces are their only customer. This situation is inevitable because the aircraft engines that we buy and install in planes and helicopters we operate are not used in other countries and are simply unneeded elsewhere except as scrap metal.
It would take us some time to develop replacements for engines for naval vessels, especially some types of power equipment for diesel-fuelled submarines and for ships, but the Nikolayevsk Plant would end up in a very tough situation, with no buyer for their goods.
We hope that things won’t reach the point where these cooperation ties get broken, although we see today that deliveries are not being made in full, and the relevant government agencies there want to halt supplies. In any event, we are already working on this matter. I have instructed the Government and they are actively looking into this whole question of replacing imports now.
I am sure that the decision to delay supplies and deliveries was not taken by our partners at the factories. They are well aware of what situation the government is putting them in. I am sure that they wish to continue their cooperation with us, but I do not know how events will actually develop. I think – and want to draw to your attention — that this is linked to the idea we have been hearing more and more often from our Western partners about imposing sanctions on some Russian economic sectors, the defence sector above all.
I think this is an attempt to stop us from finding replacements for these imports and leaving us dependent on other companies, including the plants in Ukraine. This is an attack using low means. But we will achieve our goals regardless. You cannot stop this process in the modern world. Yes, we do need to buy some types of equipment and machine tools from our partners, but they all need to realise that we will find suitable replacements.
There are unique goods produced by only one or two plants, but even there we will find replacements. It is just a matter of time and money. It will be a bit more expensive and take a little longer, but we will survive and will continue, whereas our partners will not have this chance. Such is the logic of today’s life and reality. But of course we would like to continue our cooperation.
On the question of Ukrainian specialists possibly moving to Russia, if they want to, we would help them settle in here and they would receive decent wages and housing, flats. You will get the needed money from the federal budget for this.
I must say that this is already happening, and more than one family, more than one specialist, has already made the move. Of course we are talking here of people who can work at our defence industry companies and whose skills are in demand there. Ukraine has excellent potential in this respect, excellent specialists. We welcome them and would be happy to see them working in Russia in our companies.
Let’s begin our discussion and exchange of views now. Rather then you asking me questions, I would like to hear your views on the situation here and what is happening so that I can get some useful information from you on the real state of affairs in Russia today.