Nearly 2,500 people are taking part in the congress, including 455 delegates from the party’s 85 regional branches, heads of ministries and agencies, State Duma deputies, representatives of the regional executive and legislative bodies, secretaries of United Russia regional political councils, and representatives of the expert and scientific communities.
The congress has two discussion venues on key items of the party’s agenda, where the participants sum up the year’s results and set tasks for the future.
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Speech at the plenary session of the 17th United Russia Party congress
Vladimir Putin: Friends, colleagues,
Many of you present here today took part in building the United Russia Party. We did it at a complicated and critical stage in the life of our state, when the nation needed a powerful unifying force for its steady development, for strengthening its statehood and addressing large-scale challenges. The United Russia Party has achieved and continues to achieve this goal. I am very pleased to note that and would like to thank you for that.
United Russia has earned its leading position by real actions in the interests of the people, to the benefit of our regions, and to the benefit of the whole country. The people of Russia and all of us have walked down a hard but monumental road of development. We did not sidestep from the designated track and responded well to the challenges of the hardest trials and crises, including global ones, often completely out of our control. We stood together in countering the assault of international terrorism, in standing up for Russia’s independence and self-reliance, and we showed unity in deciding the fate of Crimea and Sevastopol.
We turned around seemingly insurmountable trends in the economy, demographics and social sphere. We ensured Russia’s enhanced security and growing influence in the world. Huge infrastructure projects and large-scale construction sites, new enterprises and advanced industries are the results of our joint work.
If we managed to achieve anything, the credit definitely goes to the Russian people, their will, labour, confidence, sometimes sacrifices, faith in patriotism as a key idea, belief in their Motherland. All that is the decisive force behind our progress
Yes, we realise that we could have achieved more. This is always the case when one takes up the most difficult tasks, when one sets ambitious goals. And it is clear that if such super tasks are set, we can be sure from the onset that we may fail in some areas. But it is much worse when such ambitious goals are not set. Then nothing will come out at all.
At the same time, we must honestly identify unresolved issues and persevere in solving them, removing everything that impedes progress. We must set even more ambitious goals and achieve results. There are many urgent things we must work on. What has been done is just the foundation but not a guarantee of further successful development. The future depends on our ability to ensure that changes are irreversible, to preserve and considerably augment what we have achieved over the past years.
I would like to emphasise, to draw your attention to the fact that the irreversibility of achievements and changes means our readiness to respond to global challenges, to defend Russia’s statehood and people’s lives and security from threats and shocks, and to lay the foundation for growing prosperity for everyone.
Everyone must be ensured a worthy place in the future. We must keep opening up broad opportunities for the success and self-fulfilment of each individual. Securing such continuity, sustainable and uninterrupted development of the nation is the main responsibility of all the constructive and visionary political and social forces.
It means that despite all the differences in opinions, approaches and proposals on developing the country, we must be guided by the citizens’ rights and freedoms, Russia’s long-term interests and the strength of our statehood. We can succeed in implementing our plans only on condition of general national accord.
For our country to live, to be revived, to preserve its identity, we must protect the basic values existing in society. They are patriotism, mutual understanding, concord between the peoples of our multi-ethnic nation, and respect for our history, culture, traditions, freedoms, rights and the dignity of man.
These values fortify our resolve to work for the common good and fuel the energy of volunteer activities. Caring, selfless people make an invaluable contribution to solving specific issues. They do not wait for somebody else to come and do it for them.
People’s responsibility, their participation in devising and implementing the development agenda is the basis for a strong and mature civil society, and undoubtedly, for a stable political and state system.
Stability must not meat inertia, stagnation, or a frozen petrified structure that lags behind the challenges of the time. If it were like that, everything could collapse at any moment and expose the country to the risk of destruction and dissolution, as it happened in our recent history.
We remember those lessons of history and that is why we keep developing our state and political system, making it more flexible, capable of adapting to the rapid changes of the modern world. The ability to meet the demands of people and society, their growing desire to actively participate in the life of the country – these are the things that we should be guided by.
I would also like to stress that nothing undermines stability and steals the resource of development as much as untruth, injustice, lawlessness, the rust of corruption and bribery, indifference to one’s own country and distancing oneself from people’s needs, whether displayed by politicians, officials, businesses or those who call themselves “the elite.”
All these things weaken and undermine sustainable development, our social solidarity and stability. Let me underscore this – it is these matters, not people’s fair demands to solve outstanding problems.
It is my conviction that we should further expand the mechanisms of direct democracy, fully release the potential of civil activities laid in our Constitution, encourage the competition of ideas, proposals and approaches to solving development issues. We must have a respectful attitude towards competent and responsible opposition. And being such opposition means not only the wish and readiness to argue with the authorities or to accuse them of every mortal sin. We are aware of the problems the country is facing. Being responsible means having a clear-cut programme of positive action.
Let me emphasise that I see the key guarantee of the irreversibility of change in a strong, responsible, free civil society, as its structures operate for the sake of creation, for the good of the people and the country, and take part in addressing the most complicated social issues.
Such society rejects populism and idle talk. Such a society is resistant to any attempts to destabilise it. It will never let the country be dragged into chaos, be led astray, made weak and dependent. We know that such examples are plentiful in many countries around us. It can happen very fast if we are not committed to stability in society.
Colleagues, the irreversibility of our development largely ensures the firmness of Russia’ sovereignty and the combat capability of its army and navy. Our strength is directed at defence from external threats, from terrorism. We are not and will not be looking for confrontation with anyone. We will continue to pursue an open and honest foreign policy, we will strengthen the Eurasian Economic Union with our partners, and promote our initiative on establishing a new broader integration contour – the Grand Eurasian Partnership. We are ready to work with all countries – both in the West and in the East, on the principles of trust and equality. Yet we will never sacrifice the security of our citizens and our national interests (Applause).
For our people, for Russia to carry on, we must overcome the drastic aftermath of the demographic gaps the country faced last century, to preserve, and in the future to increase the country’s population . This is what our new additional measures on the support of motherhood, childhood and families with children are targeting. I would even say that the whole policy, all our work – in the economy, social sphere and other fields – should be aimed at preserving the nation, at solving the issues of demographic development.
That means modern healthcare and promoting a healthy active lifestyle, decreasing the mortality rate and increasing life expectancy in the coming years. It means new schools, crèches and kindergartens; creating a modern environment for living in cities and rural areas; good environmental conditions, modern infrastructure, utilities and roads; comfortable quality housing that is affordable for millions of Russians. Finally, it simply means people’s wellbeing and welfare – it consists of all of the above. We must achieve continuous stable growth of real incomes for our citizens, as well as pensions and social benefits.
We must certainly continue our efforts to decrease the number of people with incomes below the subsistence level, eradicate poverty, decreasing its level and the number of low-income people, which is a threat for the stability and unity of our society as it denigrates people. The situation should become intolerable when a person who has a good profession and qualifications gets a meagre wage for his or her work and literally lives from hand to mouth.
Let me remind you in this connection that we should certainly not adopt populist policies, give promises that cannot be kept or squander money the way it was done in the 1990s. We remember that under the pressure of circumstances Parliament and the Government often approved decisions that could never have been implemented; then they did nothing and took on new obligations that were never met either.
This is a path that we must certainly avoid. We remember what it led to. It led to 40 million people living below the poverty line in 2000, which was almost one third of the population back then. Today the figure stands at 20 million, and this figure too is unacceptably high.
We had a period when the figure stood at 15 million but, unfortunately, crisis effects, external restrictions and falling demand for our traditional exports in the world markets did their dirty deed. But now Russia has recovered from the recession, we have reached the stage of sustainable economic growth, and we must target poverty by taking advantage of the economic growth and labour productivity. We must do it the way we targeted inflation, and we have managed to achieve positive results, as you know. We must do the same in this case.
It is vitally important to radically change this situation, as people’s wellbeing, the wellbeing of their children and families, their social perception and confidence in the future are a guarantee of sustainable, progressive development of the country. I am sure that we can and must ensure conditions for every person regardless of age or any restrictions to be able to raise their qualifications, open their own business or have a good job.
What must we do to achieve that? We must establish a new employment market and a flexible modern system of vocational training.
Economic crises, and as I have already said, and external restrictions did not allow us to fulfil the task of reaching an economic growth above the world’s average. But it is imperative that we do it, and we will. Russia must not only secure a place among the world’s top five economies, but also approach the level of the advanced countries in terns of GDP per capita. It is this indicator that shows the quality and technological level of the economy, labour productivity and ultimately people’s wellbeing.
To achieve that, we will have to drastically modernise the country’s infrastructure, which is a top priority task for the short term. Raising efficiency and labour productivity in the traditional branches of the economy, making a breakthrough here similar to the one underway in agriculture, transport and communications, telecommunications, the pharmaceutical industry and the military-industrial complex of Russia.
Our successful large and growing companies should enter the world market and become global champions. Meanwhile, the top political, economic and social priority for the coming years remains the development of small and middle-sized business.
Russia must become a space of true economic freedom for every individual who has his or her own business, for tens of thousands of new startups, small family businesses, farms, self-employed entrepreneurs. This is also a guarantee of the irreversibility and sustainability of our development. We have to establish most favourable conditions for efficient labour, investment, business initiatives, to remove artificial barriers and unfounded restrictions. We will certainly pursue this work in the future.
I believe it important to continue improving and liberalising the existing legislation, including by dropping all the vague, ambiguous, unclear legal norms that are used by corrupt law enforcement officials to harass businesses, to force them to pay up and defraud them of their property.
Of course, we should develop fundamentally new industries. This is crucial, there can be no future without it. Industries related to the introduction of advanced digital and industrial technologies, bio-engineering, robotics. The branches are already shaping the future of modern civilisation and must ensure our country’s sustainability, progress and standing in tomorrow’s world.
Science and education play an enormous role here. Russian schools must be among the world’s best in terms of quality and scope of training, and our colleges, vocational schools and universities must adopt leading standards in training workers, engineers, researchers and specialists of the new technological paradigm.
We focus on developing the abilities and talents each child, each young person has. Work skills contests and grants for young researchers, support of gifted school and university students, the Sirius educational centre and the whole constellation of children’s techno parks, creative groups – all these projects are united by a common aim. This network must continue to expand. It is much too narrow today.
This means a successful future for the nation, its development that will be ensured by the strong, creative, talented and bright young generation of Russians. The key is that young people in large cities and small towns, in the countryside and in villages should have equal opportunities for self-fulfilment.
Only then will we ensure that strong young professionals enter politics and business, government agencies, industries, and all other spheres. Patriotic, honest, daring, committed, active people who understand and share the country’s development agenda and participate in its implementation, who consider it to be their own agenda which meets their dreams and aspirations. We must do all we can to ensure such continuity. Young people are the people of the coming new age. I am sure they will firmly stand up for Russia’s interests, will lead the country along the path of progress, leadership and prosperity.
Friends, Russia is made up of millions of very different people with their joys, hardships and problems. They toil, work, make families, and raise children. And it means our centuries-old history goes on. Our joint work, determination, energy and responsibility for Russia’s present and its future is the most reliable guarantee of its dignified, breakthrough, irreversible development.
I am confident of our success because millions of Russians are with us. We are together, we are moving forward. And there is certainly no power that can stop Russia’s forward movement. We will make our way from one victory to another. This is sure to happen!
Friends, Mr Medvedev, colleagues,
I cannot but say a few words, literally a few words.
Russia is a country with a thousand-year history. But we should not treat it as a beloved granny – give her medications on time so that she does not have any pains, and do nothing else. Not at all.
We must make Russia young, focused on the future, and it is becoming like that with every new generation. But to achieve that we must resolve all those issues that we have just spoken about. We must introduce significant changes in the development of healthcare and education, in infrastructure, because without healthcare and education we will not solve another key task – bringing innovation into our economy, developing digitalisation, biotechnology and so on, the things Mr Medvedev has just spoken about in his speech. This cannot be done by people who are not healthy or educated. All that is closely interconnected in the modern world.
There are very many people, both here, among this audience, and those who are not here but who support us, who do their job, working on the ground, as we say. They know that these tasks cannot be resolved with slogans and catchwords alone or just by handing out money to someone at a certain political stage without caring about what will happen tomorrow. This is a road to nowhere. United Russia has always been a very responsible political force and it has always had a professional approach to tackling the challenges facing the country.
What does that mean? It means – and I would like to address those who are responsible for taking concrete decisions in Parliament and locally – it means that by identifying development tasks we must make timely decisions, however debatable they might seem at the time when they are taken.
We must shed everything that stands in the way of Russia’s renewal – we have a lot of things accumulated here – everything that stands in the way of making it young, forward-looking and driven. All that must be identified and discarded. We must create mechanisms that will let us move forward.
Everyone knows that we need funding to solve the tasks we have spoken about. Where can we get it? Do we have funds or not? We do, but we have to make a lot of adjustments to the tax system, we have to absolutely and categorically ensure the development of the pension system so that current retirees and those who will retire in the future can be confident that everything is reliable and stable in that area.
We must continue to ensure the country’s defence capability. We have a great many tasks, and we must act responsibly and professionally, basing our actions on the long-term prospects of the country’s development rather than on the present-day situation. The key issue here is the ability to explain to the people what is being done and for what purposes, and what we are expecting to achieve. In that case, the people will support us, and we will be able to rely on them. And if something goes wrong, we have to say clearly, honestly and sincerely, “Yes, we wanted it that way but it turned out otherwise; we can see that and we will rectify it with your support and with your help.”
This is the only way to achieve what I spoke about at the end of my speech. Only in that case will we be able to march from one victory to another. I really count on your support, thank you very much for it.