President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Matviyenko, I congratulate you on your re-election to the high office of Speaker of the Federation Council.
The Federation Council is one of our most important government bodies and a vital part of state administration.
I hope very much that the Federation Council will continue as before to represent the regions’ interests. This is its paramount responsibility. At the same time, I hope it will also take into account the interests of the entire country, of all of Russia, fulfil its essential role as regulator of the interests of individual regions and the country as a whole and work constructively with the lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma, and with the Government.
Over your time as speaker of the upper chamber you have organised work with your colleagues in just this fashion – taking an approach that is based on principles and at the same time constructive.
I want to wish you success.
Speaker of The Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko: Thank you very much for your congratulations, Mr President. Thank you for your confidence and support. I am grateful to my fellow senators for placing their trust in me. We have achieved a lot over the last years, but there is still much more work ahead.
The law that you submitted on new procedures for the Federation Council’s formation is bearing fruit now and producing some good results. The regional elections in September brought many new faces into the Federation Council: 57 percent of those who entered the Federation Council following the elections are new senators.
They are real representatives of their regions, people who know their regions’ problems. They come from all walks of life and include civil servants, lawmakers, municipal officials, and people from the education and healthcare sectors. They are all full of enthusiasm, very much aware of their regions’ problems, and are ready to work. I think this has totally changed the Federation Council’s look. A complete renewal has taken place over these last two years.
I am very pleased to see that 36 percent of the new arrivals are women. I say this not because I am a woman but because both men and women should be represented in parliament and because the presence of women does a lot to humanise our law-making work. We have gained professionals with a lot of work experience. Women now make up 18 percent of the parliament.
Two thirds of members have post graduate degrees. We have 28 holders of doctor of science degrees and 71 holders of candidate of science degrees. These are people who have strong ties to and knowledge of the local situation and at the same have a lot of professional experience. I am sure that this will inject new quality into our work.
We have a big portfolio of legislation lined up for the autumn session. We have made active use of our right to initiate legislation over these last three years. Whether individual senators or groups of senators, the Federation Council has submitted 321 draft laws. Of these, you have already signed 70 into law, and the rest are still in the process of examination. In short, we are making active use of the Federation Council’s law-making potential today.
We have changed the way we work with the regions: we have governors coming, and the heads of legislative assemblies. The Federation Council today has become a real chamber of the regions, though we still have more work to do.
The tasks that you set out in your Address to the Federal Assembly are priorities for us. We have a busy schedule for the autumn session as we are set to examine around 120 priority government laws alone.
We ratified a historic document today – the Agreement on Establishing the Eurasian Economic Union. It received the senators’ strong support and really is a very important event. We synchronised our ratification with the parliaments of Kazakhstan and Belarus, and the final ratification will take place in Belarus on October 7. The agreement will thus be able to come into force on January 1, 2015.
The budget is very important for us of course, its regional aspect, having balanced regional budgets. On October 7, we will hold broad-based parliamentary hearings with governors and heads of legislative assemblies taking part. There, together with the Finance Ministry, we will examine the budget law’s provisions and state our proposals and desires.
We always try to put forward constructive proposals. We are following no populist agenda and have no desire to create PR for ourselves. We are working together with the Finance Ministry right now on a new concept for inter-budgetary relations and have set up a joint working group. Over the summer, all of the senators worked in the tripartite commission on budget formation.
This means that the budget that we will receive from the State Duma is not unfamiliar as far as we are concerned. We already know it well. It is balanced and overall it is in keeping with the needs of the current circumstances, but there are some nuances that need a little adjustment to take into account specific situations in the regions. We will discuss this at the hearings on October 7.
We have got actively involved in carrying out your instruction on the economy’s deoffshorisation. We think it very important that the package of laws in this area be passed this year. At the Federation Council’s initiative, we have drafted a whole package of laws that have already received the approval of the Government, Finance Ministry and Supreme Court. The Government has also sent a law in this area to the Finance Ministry.
There are a few differences to settle and we are continuing the work to reach a consolidated decision and ensure that these laws are passed by the end of the year, because this represents a big source of income for the budget in general and also because it will give the Russian economy a needed clean-up.
There are a number of other laws that we also see as priorities and will work on actively.
Vladimir Putin: Is the Federation Council at full membership now, with all 170 senators?
Valentina Matviyenko: No, we are still short of six representatives because the legislative assemblies in the regions concerned have not met yet. They have already decided who their representatives will be, but legally speaking, everything will be in order by the next meeting on October 15.
We already have two senators representing Crimea, and we are expecting a decision from Sevastopol next week, and they will be ready to start work on October 15.
Vladimir Putin: So you already know who your colleagues are?
Valentina Matviyenko: Yes, they have all been decided. We worked with the governors and the heads of the legislative assemblies and chose the worthiest candidates. The main thing is that these people are well-known and respected in their regions and will help develop the Federation Council’s image as the chamber representing the regions in their capacity as representatives from the executive and legislative branches.
Vladimir Putin: I wish you success.