President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, Ms Matviyenko, Mr Volodin. Welcome everyone.
The new parliament, its lower chamber, has finished its work for the autumn session. Soon, the Federation Council will finish its work as well. Of course, the outgoing year’s most important event was the election to the State Duma, which resulted in a significant rotation of the deputies. Significant changes have taken place in the leadership of the chamber as well, but that did not stop the deputies from immediately engaging in active legislative work.
I would like to specially thank you for the decisions that have been taken over a relatively short time and, above all, for your active work and adoption of the main financial document of our country – the budget, which is extremely important for our economy to be able to grow steadily, and the budgetary process to exert a positive impact on our economy in general.
At the same time – I believe you will agree with me – it is essential to exercise extreme caution with regard to innovations and take great care when it comes to amendments to existing laws. For example, the Criminal Code has been amended more than 10 times; tax laws, over 30 times; and the Code of Administrative Offences, more than 40 times.
No doubt, if that is really necessary, all these steps should be brought in line with the existing norms while the new norms that are adopted in particular areas, branches of law, should be in harmony with one another.
Regional policy undoubtedly remains the most important area both for the executive branch of government and for the deputies of the Federal Assembly.
Of course, this is primarily the concern of the upper house, which represents the interests of the regions, as well as of deputies of the State Duma, also considering the fact that our electoral system has changed and a certain number of deputies come directly from Russian regions and are, essentially, in direct contact with the voters.
However, our colleagues who have got into parliament on party lists should also be in direct, immediate contact with their voters. This practice was well established in previous years. I hope it will remain.
And naturally, I would like to wish you all the very best ahead of the upcoming holidays, and I hope that we will work next year as constructively as we have in the outgoing year.
I am pleased to give the floor to Ms Matviyenko.
Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko: Mr President,
First of all, I would like to thank you for your constant and unflagging attention to the activity of the Federal Assembly, to the activity of the Council of Lawmakers, to our initiatives. I would particularly like to note the respect you show to the country’s parliament, which should serve a model for the leaders of other levels of government and other leaders. The country’s parliament is one of the most important democratic institutions.
The end of December is a time for summing up results. The year has not been easy, but it has been constructive. We all have worked as one team, which came through especially during the preparation and adoption of the federal budget for the next three years. There are still plenty of difficulties, both internal and external, but we have not only endured this year, but have also become stronger, more cohesive and impervious to outside challenges, while patriotism has become our spiritual dominant. On the whole, this year, the situation has visibly changed for the better, among other things, because the authorities have not been overtaken by events, have not panicked, but have dealt with the problems that came up calmly and effectively.
The Federation Council has fully exercised its constitutional powers, has actively participated in lawmaking activity; as a house of regions, it has actively protected and upheld the rights of the regions, and we have given special priority to strengthening federalism.
On the Federation Council’s initiative, a Security Council meeting was held on ways to improve state regional policy, which you supported. The Security Council defined key directions in this area. We hope that your instructions on approving new principles of state regional policy, which we have actively helped to draft, will be carried out in the near future. As you have just noted, the Federation Council will work consistently to implement these policy documents.
This year we tried to promptly respond to the issues that particularly worried our citizens and were raised by senators from different regions of Russia. A number of major draft laws were initiated. In all, this year Federation Council members initiated over 80 draft laws, including a package of laws on the activities of collectors, and amendments to the law on attracting investment to the fishing industry. The Federation Council promptly reacted to the tragedy on Lake Syamozero. We prepared a draft law that is focused on establishing clear-cut and strict procedures on ensuring security in children’s recreation areas. The next summer recreation campaign will be organised in line with the new rules.
We also prepared an address to you, Mr President, on restoring Yevpatoria as a national children’s health resort and would like to ask you to support it. I would like to hand this address to you in the presence of all participants so as not to leave behind any unfinished business in the outgoing year. We do not have too many children’s health resorts, and the number of specialised resorts for children with disabilities is even smaller. The first resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Federative Socialist Republic on establishing a children’s resort in Anapa was adopted in January 1936, which was not the easiest time, as we realise. I think that now we can solve this problem with your support.
Based on the proposals of some regions, we introduced amendments to the law on the Far Eastern hectare programme and specified the points they were worried about.
Today I would like to thank the State Duma deputies of all parliamentary parties for their constructive and productive cooperation. Owing to our joint well-orchestrated work, the important laws I mentioned were adopted and the mechanisms of cooperation between the lower and upper chambers were put right from the first reading.
Today, a very important law introduced by the Federation Council was adopted. It concerns social allowances for children whose parents are unknown. There are only 900 of them in the entire country, but they did not receive any allowances. I would like to thank the deputies for supporting this law. We always find a common language, realising that we bear common responsibility.
In addition, the Federation Council has drafted and submitted to the State Duma a draft law on volunteering. Taking into account the tasks that you set in your Address to the Federal Assembly in this area, we will finalise it with the deputies so it can be adopted during the spring session.
Next year, the National Children's Interests Action Strategy 2012–2017 that you approved will expire. Its implementation has objectively made it possible to pool the efforts of all branches of government and civil society institutions, address the most acute problems and prioritise children’s interests. Of course, there should be no pause, no stopping here.
I would like to thank you, Mr President, for supporting our decision to declare a “decade of childhood” in Russia and to instruct the Government and the Executive Office to consider the possibility of issuing a corresponding executive order. This will make it possible to define the main directions in supporting childhood in 2018–2027 to provide comprehensive support for the well-being and prosperity of an entire generation entering adulthood and to ensure a qualitatively new stage in your long-term nation-building policy.
The outgoing year will, without a doubt, be remembered also for the productive work in the sphere of parliamentary diplomacy. In the context of the present-day difficult international relations, inter-parliamentary cooperation, inter-parliamentary dialogue is needed like never before. We are using any international platform, any opportunity to bring home to our partners Russia’s position, our approaches toward dealing with pressing international problems. Our arguments are meeting with growing understanding and support. This is evidenced, among other things, by the decision to hold the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which brings together the parliaments of 171 countries, in Russia next year.
Further evidence that our arguments are meeting with understanding are the resolutions adopted by the lower and upper houses of the French parliament on lifting sanctions against MPs and restoring dialogue with Russia. Similar resolutions were adopted by a number of regional parliaments in Italy. Also, there have been visits by members of European parliaments to Crimea, allowing for objective assessments of the situation in Crimea and Sevastopol, which are completely at odds with the current Russophobic rhetoric and propaganda.
By agreement with France’s Senate we are drafting a joint report on Russian-French relations and their prospects. The number of invitations from parliaments of many countries to visit them and the number of those who wish to come to Russia have increased many-fold. Considering this, how can anyone speak of Russia’s isolation?
A year ago the Federation Council supported your request for the Aerospace Forces to participate in a military operation in Syria. Experience has shown that this decision was timely and correct. Russia’s participation in the anti-terrorist struggle drastically changed the situation in Syria. Its territorial integrity and sovereignty were preserved; a large part of its territory was cleared of terrorists; owing to the Defence Ministry’s Reconciliation Centre over a thousand towns have already joined the truce process and columns of humanitarian relief are being continuously sent to Syrian citizens. We know that destroying the terrorists in their den will prevent this scum from coming to our homes and will ensure our national security.
The main priorities of the Federation Council for 2017 have been determined in the plan of measures on fulfilling your Address to the Federal Assembly, which we will approve at the final meeting of the Federation Council on Friday.
In conclusion, Mr President, allow me to say happy New Year and Christmas and wish you patience, strength and good luck. And please take care of yourself.
To quote the words of Alexander Blok, written in a year of great trials: “All will be well. Russia will be great.” I personally believe this.
Colleagues, I wish an early happy New Year to you all.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Mr Volodin, please.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin: Mr President,
The first and shortest session of the new State Duma has ended. The State Duma has worked for only 77 days. There were 17 plenary sessions. The State Duma has adopted 142 laws, with 2,020 draft laws rolled over into the agenda of the seventh convocation of the State Duma. Some have been submitted since as far back as the mid-1990s. To consider the backlogged bills we are already planning our work for 2017. We have made a consolidated decision to increase the duration of plenary sessions and to reduce breaks, and we have also altered house rules for the spring session, extending it until July. This decision will make it possible to consider draft laws more efficiently.
The decision to move Election Day has for the first time enabled the State Duma to begin its work with the main financial document: the Federal Budget Law. The draft budget was widely discussed at parliamentary hearings with the participation of the expert and research community, as well as with representatives of political parties that did not get into the State Duma as a result of elections.
State Duma deputies have from day one defined their priority as enhancing the quality of law-making activity. To that end, all party factions have made a number of systemic decisions through consensus. These include the broad public discussion of legislative initiatives and the expert appraisal of draft laws. In addition, a decision was made to tighten oversight of the implementation of the laws and decisions that are made.
Today, after a preliminary joint hearing with the Government of the Russian Federation, the State Duma made the decision to amend the State Duma’s procedural regulations and rules, which will enable us to set higher standards on the quality of drafting and implementing laws. This refers primarily to the preparation of essential regulatory acts, considering that what often happens is that a law is adopted but does not go into effect for one, two or three years due to the lack of regulatory acts. It was important for us to get these things off the ground.
Considering that we have agreed with the Government that exactly the same provision will appear in the Government’s regulations, we believe that this will allow us, by the third reading, to see how the preparation of regulatory documents is proceeding. And only after receiving notification from the Government – and the Government has agreed with that – will we proceed with the third reading so as to ensure the more effective implementation of draft laws. Because sometimes it so happens that a minister reports to the President that a law has been adopted and a problem has been solved, but then nothing is done to solve that problem for a year due to the lack of regulatory acts, which affects people, as well as efficiency.
Furthermore, we have to pass amendments to laws to delay their enforcement. We came up against this during the short period in which we worked on a number of laws: on household waste disposal and on housing maintenance and utilities. All of that prompted us to work in this direction. If we manage to improve the work by introducing these regulations into our procedural rules, then we may subsequently talk about amendments to laws. Right now it would probably be premature to talk about amendments, given that this should be done in a synchronised way, as a lot here depends on the Government.
A part of the autumn session agenda was devoted to national security issues and protecting our country’s interests in the international arena. All party factions were unanimous on these issues. As a general rule, we have a consolidated position here.
Our priorities for 2017 are, above all, the initiatives and proposals that you, Mr President, formulated in your Address to the Federal Assembly. As we make plans for next year, we are putting these priorities on the State Duma’s agenda. The analysis of the Address that was made by a working group formed by the State Duma has shown that we need to amend about 95 laws, as well as legislative acts, to fulfil the tasks that the President set in his Address to the Federal Assembly.
It will be our priority agenda for next year, considering that we have already resolved some of the issues. Still, a great deal also depends on how well organised the work with the Government will be so that we can proceed from their legislative initiatives, while in situations where we believe decisions can be made through deputies’ initiatives, of course, they should be upheld to ensure that things run smoothly.
Improving the quality of law-making, working with voters, implementing election programmes, invigorating parliamentary oversight institutions and the deputies’ self-organisation – all of this meets society’s needs and responds to the tasks set by the President in his Address and in the election programme.
Mr President, you have supported requests from party faction leaders, who are present here, regarding a number of questions, as well as the need to increase the number of [their] aides in the regions. These matters are especially relevant now, given that deputies were also elected in single-seat constituencies, and there are many territories where not all parties are represented. It can be said even now that these and other matters – considering that they were wide-ranging – have been resolved completely, 100 percent. On behalf of my colleagues, I would like to express our gratitude to you for resolving all these matters, which were brought up literally in the beginning of October.
Mr President, on behalf of my colleagues I wish you a happy New Year, good health, happiness and good luck in everything you do!
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
To be continued.