The President announced, in particular, that he has sent to the State Duma draft laws on procedures for the Federation Council’s formation and on amendments to provisions on senators’ status.
Mr Putin also answered senators’ questions.
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Speech at the Federation Council meeting
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Matviyenko, colleagues,
First of all, I want to thank you for your constructive work over these years. Cooperation between the Government and the parliament in general, including with the upper house, is essential for running the country effectively. This was particularly true when we were hit by the crisis at the end of 2008, in 2009, and in part in 2010, and we needed to make quick and balanced decisions. We succeeded in organising our work in just this fashion, and I am sure that we will continue to work in such close partnership.
This is all the more essential given the representative branch of power’s fundamental importance for the stable development of our democratic system and our statehood in general.
As Ms Matviyenko said just before, a law has been signed giving our country a new historic date – the Day of Russian Parliamentarianism. Russia will mark this day each year on April 27, the anniversary of the Russian State Duma’s first meeting held in 1906. This is a new symbol of continuity in our national and parliamentary traditions.
I propose looking today at the Federation Council’s priorities, especially the part it plays in improving our country’s laws and strengthening federalism. We have set a broad agenda of change that will clearly require us to pass a large number of new laws, and it is our common task to ensure that everyone involved in this legislative process works together as effectively as possible, and to make the process in general more open.
Let me go further and say that all of the key decisions and basic draft laws should be put first to broad public discussion and public audit. This is our position of principle. We must be active in getting Russia’s people involved and working together with the various public groups, business and professional associations, the different social groups, and the regions and municipalities of course. In this respect, the Federation Council should play a greater role, above all as the house of parliament representing the regions. It is the Federation Council’s responsibility to represent the regions’ views, defend their views in a civilised fashion in developing the federal legislative framework, and ensure that the issues of greatest concern to the people in the regions, the towns and villages and the regions in general, are included in the legislative agenda.
This is why I certainly welcome the steps you are taking to renew the principles governing the upper house of parliament’s functioning. This internal reform has been carried out now and is proving its effectiveness.
Merging committees has made the Federation Council’s organisational structure clearer and bolstered its potential as an expert body. It also makes senators more responsible individually for their positions and thus raises the quality of legislative work.
This is reflected in the Federation Council’s work during the 2012 spring session, when it examined and passed around 100 federal laws, including the crucial package of laws on improving our political system.
Let me add that the Federation Council committees are also working more closely and professionally now with the various ministries and agencies and with their colleagues in the State Duma. The number of draft laws drawn up together by State Duma deputies and members of the Federation Council has increased considerably, for example.
I think the Federation Council has all of the instruments it needs now for detailed and thorough examination of federal laws, and – just as important – for maintaining the balance of interests between the different branches and levels of government.
I want to say a few words in more detail now about the Council of Legislators. This body was established 10 years ago and has made a big contribution to harmonious and balanced development of federal and regional legislation. For Russia, as one of the world’s biggest multi-ethnic federations, this is a matter of absolutely vital importance.
I have taken part in a number of Council of Legislators’ meetings. Differences in opinion between the federal and regional authorities, including the lawmakers in the regions, are quite a common occurrence. But it is precisely this kind of dialogue that has always helped us to find the best models and solutions that take into account both federal and regional interests.
I therefore think that your joint decision to merge the Council of Legislators with the State Duma’s Association of Legislators is perfectly correct. The newly merged body’s main task will be to ensure coordination with the regional legislative assemblies, identify the best legislative practice in the regions and spread it around the country.
Regional legislative initiatives can play a big part in developing our laws. I know that quite often they do not get passed, and I know your position on this matter. But you must work together with the State Duma and the Government, work on these legislative initiatives’ quality, and help your colleagues in the regions to present their proposals as a good-quality legislative product. The issues the regions raise come directly from everyday life and its concerns and usually reflect the views of people living in particular regions, towns and villages.
Colleagues, the Federation Council’s effectiveness depends not only on the way its work is organised but also on the legal status of its members and on the rules governing its formation.
In accordance with the Constitution, the Federation Council is composed of representatives of the executive and legislative authorities in the regions.
We have often discussed, however, how to involve our citizens more actively in forming the Federation Council, and how to make the procedures governing its formation as open, objective and clear as possible for everyone. This would increase the Federation Council’s effectiveness as the body representing the regions, and increase senators’ awareness of their role as representatives of their regions with direct responsibility before local citizens. In other words, the procedures governing the Federation Council’s formation must become more democratic and the Federation Council itself must become more regional, if I can put it this way, in its makeup.
You have examined these issues in detail, and I think the decision that was reached through our joint discussions fits fully with our political system’s overall development logic.
I have sent a draft law on the new principles for the Federation Council’s formation to the State Duma.
I want to outline once more the draft law’s underlying principles and key provisions. Above all, the Federation Council must be made up of people directly connected to the regions they represent.
Furthermore, the current procedures for nominating candidates sometimes create grounds for speculation of various kinds. We need to leave this behind.
The only correct decision in this context is to have the Federation Council formed in such a way as to take voters’ choices into account. Our citizens vote in elections to the regional parliaments. We are returning now to direct gubernatorial elections. I therefore think it logical that citizens should be able to take part in the Federation Council’s formation through these mechanisms.
Under the draft law that I signed this morning, during the election campaign period, candidates for the post of regional governor must name three candidates, one of whom they must appoint as their representative in the Federation Council if they win the election. In other words, people running for governor will present to the voters not only themselves and their platforms, but also the key people in their team, and will take full political and personal responsibility for the candidates they name to the Federation Council. Voters will thus vote not only for a candidate for the post of governor, but also for the candidates for the post of senator delegated by the regional executive authorities.
Of course, you might ask why three candidates? This is a purely technical matter. The logic here is that if for any reason a candidate nominated to the Federation Council departs or resigns, there will be a fully suitable replacement at the ready.
Let me add that the regional executive authorities can nominate as their representatives current Federation Council members or State Duma deputies who already have a mandate from the region in question.
Naturally, the regional legislative authorities’ representative in the Federation Council must not just have a direct connection with the region but also must be an elected representative of the region’s population. In other words, they must have taken part in regional elections and received the support of the region’s voters. Thus, the proposal is that regional legislative assemblies can delegate only members of regional parliaments to the Federation Council.
Let me stress that the basis for ending senators’ mandates will be the same as for State Duma deputies. In other words, regional governors or legislative assemblies cannot end their mandates, and I think this will reinforce the senators’ independence and political influence.
I note too, the general demands that candidates for Federation Council membership must meet. They aim above all at strengthening senators’ ties with their regions. Prospective senators must have spent the five years prior to their nomination living permanently in the region in question or have held state or regional office.
I add here that these requirements will not apply to current State Duma deputies and Federation Council members. We think this is the right way to proceed because the new rules should be introduced gradually, without trying to force the pace.
The Federation Council’s membership will be renewed gradually, as I said, as gubernatorial and regional parliament elections take place.
One other important point I want to make is that the new provisions for the Federation Council’s formation will continue to respect the non-party principle underlying its work. This does not mean, of course, that senators cannot belong to this or that political party, but they cannot establish party factions or other party-based groups within the Federation Council. I think it makes sense and is even essential, because, unlike the State Duma, where the deputies represent various political parties, the members of the Federation Council are there to represent the general interests of the people whose region they have been chosen to represent, without regard to party preferences.
I note that this draft law was actively discussed, above all here in the Federation Council itself, with experts and regional representatives taking part. I think this creates a solid foundation for the draft law’s passage and for the Federation Council’s effective future work in the interests of all of Russia’s regions and people.
Thank you for your attention.