President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Volodin, we do not meet very often to discuss your professional activities. We regularly meet at Security Council meetings, but we seldom talk about the law-making aspects of your work. The State Duma maintains direct dialogue with the Government. What can you say about it? The Duma is completing its spring session. What are your goals for the near term?
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin: Mr President, we agreed during our first constituent meeting that we will focus on enhancing the quality and effectiveness of our law-making efforts. We can now review the intermediate results. If possible, I would like to report them in answer to your question, so as to show what the Duma is doing.
When this State Duma convened for the first time, we had some 2,020 draft laws left over from the previous Duma. Some of these bills had been submitted in 1994 and 1995 and were more than 20 years old. But we had to discuss these bills, because we have an obligation under the law to do this, even though many of them are no longer relevant, considering that they were submitted many years ago. Government conclusions and comments should be updated, yet we discuss them nevertheless. By this time, we have discussed some 49 percent of these draft laws, and if we keep up the speed, we will clear these legislative arrears by next May.
I regret to say that although we spend so much time on these laws, our productivity is very low, because we only adopt 14 percent of them and reject the rest. We are working jointly with the Government, which, I must say, is aware of this problem and helps us by withdrawing some of these obsolete laws. We are also working together with regional legislatures, which, seeing that some of these laws are no longer expedient, have called them off.
However, there are draft laws that have reasonable points and a sound basis. It is important, of course, that the main idea is not lost. Therefore, we try to transfer it to other projects to preserve it. This work is ongoing both with the Government and with experts. Therefore, we have every reason to believe that we will complete it next year, which will leave us more time to consider the current agenda.
As concerns the current legislative work (as the parliament members, the Government and regional legislative councils are all working in this area), 791 new draft laws have been submitted over the said period, including 201 draft laws that we have considered. I am talking about the current agenda right now.
I would like to highlight one particular legislative initiative that we believe to be very important. You talked about it. These are amendments to the law on Russian citizenship. We believe, and all parliamentary parties are unanimous (and the bill authors include leaders of all the State Duma parties) in the opinion that the law must be amended to include a rule regarding abolition of a decision to grant citizenship. Only the decision. When a person applying for Russian citizenship fills in an application and provides various personal information, there is a field that says: “If granted the citizenship of the Russian Federation, I undertake to be loyal to Russia and honestly perform my civil duty according to the Russian Constitution and Russian legislation.” If the applicant is in breach of this obligation and was convicted on terrorism charges, it would be correct to abolish the decision on granting this person citizenship.
Vladimir Putin: A consultation with the Constitutional Court is required, of course. But generally, I share your view. We have already discussed this so this initiative is no surprise for me.
We also discussed other components of the citizenship process. When people join the army they take an oath. But when it comes to citizenship, we could consider adopting the practice of some foreign states where new citizens are sworn in, they take an oath or go through another ceremony that confirms the person’s intention to become a citizen and observe our laws and customs, respect our traditions, our history and so forth. I want to ask you and parliament members to consider this.
Vyacheslav Volodin: Mr President, we will analyse international experience and combine it with our national traditions to compose an oath to our country so that those who receive Russian citizenship are aware of the responsibilities that go together with this. And then the amendments submitted will be linked to the obligations, which we will outline in the oath.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this could also entail legal consequences. But there are also pure formalities, when an individual who receives Russian citizenship provides false personal information. It may be a formal aspect, but it is a legal and very serious issue, which should be highlighted.
Vyacheslav Volodin: Mr President, in the two months remaining before the Duma and the Government begin summer recess, we will coordinate a list of the laws we need to adopt as a priority to resolve people’s problems more effectively. We have discussed this issue with the ministries and deputy prime ministers so that we can discuss and adopt the laws proposed by the Government and MPs in June and July, before the Duma’s recess.
We never stop working on this, because the Government submits almost 50 percent of the legislative initiatives. However, we believe that work should begin already at the zero level, that is, before the draft law is forwarded to the Duma. We are now trying to organise our work in this way.
Vladimir Putin: Good.