The discussion focused on the implementation of the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly by representative bodies of state authority, the development of the legal framework to control the quality of medical services and the development of digital economy in the regions.
Co-chairs of the Council of Legislators, including Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, Kaliningrad Regional Duma Speaker Larisa Orgeyeva and Chair of the Vladimir Region Legislative Assembly Vladimir Kiselev delivered reports.
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Excerpts from transcript of the meeting with the Federal Assembly’s Council of Legislators
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
First of all, I congratulate you, the entire deputy corps of the country and members of the Federation Council on Russian Parliamentarism Day.
The Council of Legislators is meeting here, in the Tauride Palace, the historical palace where Russia’s first State Duma began its work 112 years ago. Not only do we honour such important historical traditions of our country, but also do everything necessary for the development of modern Russian parliamentarism, to strengthen this most crucial independent branch of power.
I would like to thank the Council of Legislators for your multidimensional work and especially for your significant contribution to maintaining the unified legal space in the country.
This year, on December 12, the Russian Constitution and the Federal Assembly will mark their 25th anniversary. Over these years, the legislative bodies of the federal and regional levels have acquired a huge amount of positive experience. They have improved their parliamentary professionalism both in legislative activity and in the implementation of their representative function.
Notably, our Constitution contains a legal framework for a strong, responsible, influential and authoritative legislature. Clearly, there is a great potential for increasing the efficiency and quality of law-making activities. I will dwell on this topic a little later.
In the year of the 25th anniversary of the Constitution, I would like to ask you to pay special attention to raising awareness and clarifying key norms and provisions of the Fundamental Law during the meetings with the voters and citizens of our country, its importance for the country, society and each individual.
In the coming years, we will have a big and important job to do which is outlined in the Address. I emphasise once again: achieving the goals is a historical necessity. I am using this word to stress the importance of this. Providing breakthroughs across almost all areas of our lives is a matter of our country’s future.
I am aware that you not only substantively analysed this document, but already prepared plans for implementing it. I would like to hear from you today what is planned specifically and what is being done in the sphere of law-making.
I think that the Council of Legislators can improve the coordination of this work, since practically all the work must be done locally in the regions, and active, focused and competent participation of regional parliaments is absolutely necessary.
Today, we need flexible and modern legislation aimed at promoting high technology across all areas. This means expanding the freedom for entrepreneurs, scientific and creative research, and innovation. Without this, nothing will happen.
However, we should stick to one approach and share the understanding of our joint work. It is necessary to create a single and harmonious legal system, where regional and local regulatory acts are an integral part of the overall concept and do not erode federal regulations, but reasonably supplement and expand them.
As we move along this path, we will ultimately significantly improve the overall competitiveness of national jurisdiction, which is critical, and open new opportunities for domestic businesses and foreign investors.
Of course, much depends on close and constructive interaction of legislators with the future Government during the implementation of the Address. I hope that such work will be effective and harmonious, and that the best practices of cooperation and dialogue between the executive and legislative branches of power will be developed.
Here, at the Council of Legislators we have repeatedly spoken about the general problems of our legislative framework and judicial technique, and the strict observance of requirements on the structure of acts, their language and the law-making culture.
All of these things are highly important and cannot be relegated into the background or lost in the flood of routine work. In this context I suggest thinking about the consolidation of your council’s contacts with the judicial research community. I believe this will be useful for all, make law-making more solid and help draft clear-cut and transparent rules for many years to come. This is the kind of regulation we are seeking – without rush or fuss. Government bodies, business and all citizens of this country are interested in such a fundamental approach.
In this context, there is one more issue – the need to ensure feedback from voters. Of course, all of you are dealing with this but I would like to point out again that for parliamentary institutions – both federal and regional – the representative function is no less important than the legislative one. Therefore, it is necessary to communicate with the people as much as possible and to meet with them on a regular basis. To be near them, within reach, especially in the times of trouble.
Only this open and honest communication can produce ideas that are much in demand, and draft laws meeting the real aspirations of society and strategic tasks of the development of our state. For instance, this applies to building the digital economy or effective monitoring of the quality of medical aid, and housing and utilities.
I know that these and many other important issues are discussed today at the Council of Legislators. I consider it important for you to start working on these meaningful issues of national development without delay.
I cannot omit to mention that Victory Day is approaching. I would like to congratulate you on this holiday that is sacred for all of us. Festive events in honour of our veterans are already taking place but it is very important to pay constant attention to them. Any issue, any request should be treated with invariable respect and attention. This is our shared sacred duty.
I wish success and all the best to you. Thank you for your attention.
Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko: Mr President,
I would like to sincerely thank you for your constant attention to the Council of Legislators and for supporting our work. Gathered here today is a collective legislature made up of federal and regional bodies of legislative and representative power.
Of course, I was instructed by the Council of Legislators to congratulate you on your landslide victory in the election. Our citizens expressed their unconditional trust in you as a national leader and voted for the powerful programme of the country's development which you presented in your Address to the Federal Assembly.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much for the joint work. Thank you.
Valentina Matviyenko: Mr President, for us, members of your team, the implementation of your Address, current and future work, is at the top of our agenda.
Undoubtedly, strong regions are the most important prerequisite for achieving the goals set in the Address. A number of key documents in the field of state regional policy have been adopted in recent years on your instruction. Work is underway to inventory powers, and model budgets are being formed. However, unresolved problems remain.
First of all, the system of inter-budgetary relations is not efficient enough. We propose improving it so that the distribution of tax powers becomes fairer, and most importantly, so that it stimulates the economic development of the regions. We consider it advisable to legislatively establish the mandatory use of the ”two keys“ rule when introducing preferential treatment for federal taxes credited to regional and local budgets.
It is also necessary to continue to improve model budgets. It is proposed to calculate them using benchmarks in the sphere of labour, employment, culture, environment, education and healthcare. This, in turn, would provide all citizens with a certain baseline standard of living regardless of their place of residence.
The implementation of Russia’s spatial development programme was among the most important tasks identified in the Address. Active discussions are underway; the Ministry of Economic Development has done a lot to prepare the documents. But the prevailing opinion in these discussions is that we should put the main emphasis on developing agglomerations. Of course, this is a valid point of view that has been acted on in a number of countries, but I do not believe it suits our conditions.
Small towns and villages cannot be assessed only from the point of view of economic efficiency. The preservation of our unique identity, our culture and traditions largely depends on them. And, of course, we have a huge amount of territory, let’s not forget.
Among other things, the spatial development strategy should determine the specialisation of each region taking into account its concrete advantages. The misaligned economic policies we see in regions today do not encourage successful development, but often result in huge losses. I will cite only one example recently mentioned by the Tambov Region governor. Several regions of the Central Black Soil Region started growing sugar beet at the same time. This resulted in overproduction; companies incurred enormous losses and all levels of the budget lost a significant share of income tax revenue. In order to avoid such cases, we need to solve issues related to production quotas, territorial planning and the smart and effective allocation of production capacities. Let me note that the Federation Council and our committees have been involved in the active work on the Spatial Development Strategy.
You have already noted in your speech that today we have discussed the implementation of the Digital Economy programme together with Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin. Many useful proposals on harmonising the federal and regional efforts, bridging the digital inequality gap and digitalising state management at all levels have been voiced.
It was stressed that we must draw up an inventory of all the state information systems and, following this, introduce uniform regulations for all the federal and regional state agencies working with data and figures. We also noted that it was necessary to educate the population on new technology, its applications and so on.
Mr President, as for the implementation of the state programme for digitisation, as legislators we see our part primarily in taking part in the legal support. A very solid package of laws will have to be adopted.
I am afraid that if we follow the established procedure for approving draft laws we will certainly make no breakthrough. I think we need to be proactive. As you noted in your speech, this should not be done at the expense of quality, of course, and it is necessary to consider international experience in this area.
I believe this is a case where we need to establish a special organisational mechanism, maybe in the form of a specialised interdepartmental working group with experts, scientists and lawmakers and determine their tasks and deadlines. Maybe they could work in a separate building and not be allowed to leave until all tasks are carried out, or else I am afraid that…
Vladimir Putin: I am writing down your proposals. (Laughter.)
Valentina Matviyenko: …this process will be drawn out to great lengths.
I think one of the important conditions for resolving the task you set for a breakthrough in innovative development is clear legislative regulations on intellectual property and commercialisation.
We have the Intellectual Property Commission at the Federation Council, which unites the best minds in this area. All of them insist – logically – on the need to draft a strategy on intellectual property, about the need we have been talking about for five years.
Today, Russia is the only BRICS country that does not have a national development strategy in this area. This is largely explained by the lack of a uniform state policy on managing intellectual potential. Today, ten federal ministries and departments have competences in this area. But as we know, too many cooks spoil the broth.
This is why I would like to address you, Mr President with a request to instruct those in charge to expedite the development of this vital document (serious preliminary work has already been done), and also a relevant law. The said law has already received practically all the necessary approvals, but we have been unable to adopt it for over three years.
There are some objective reasons related to the Defence Ministry. But we are already past this stage. Without a strategy, without a law, it is simply impossible to create a competitive market for intellectual rights in Russia that will meet the challenges of the times.
I would also like to ask you to determine, sometime in the future Government a uniform control body that will be primarily authorised to draft and implement state policy and legislation in this area.
Now, with regard to quality control as it applies to medical care. Of course, much has been done to improve healthcare in recent years. The Ministry of Healthcare and the regional authorities allocated major funds to expand this sector. Today, with the participation of the Minister, Ms Skvortsova, we discussed quality control issues. Today, the quality of medical care has become a matter of utmost importance.
The limited effectiveness of insurance-based medicine remains one of the key issues. Vast amounts of money are spent on maintaining funds, insurance companies and intermediaries, which, unfortunately, do little to ensure quality control of medical care, or to protect the rights of patients.
No one is proposing to destroy anything or take some revolutionary measures. Nevertheless, it is necessary to develop measures to make the financing system for medical care more efficient. The Federation Council Commission on Regional Healthcare is developing such measures.
Many have an illusion that insurance-based medicine is used everywhere. In fact, this is not the case. The UK, Finland, Poland and a number of other countries are using our system developed by Dr Semashko in his time, which involves public funding of medicine, so there are things to think about and work on. The vast amounts of money being allocated must be spent efficiently and ensure the quality of medical services.
Mr President, you already mentioned that the most cherished holiday for all Russians – Victory Day – is fast approaching. The Federation Council has reached out to a number of parliaments with an idea to jointly submit an initiative at the UN, UNESCO and other international organisations of high standing to recognise the victory over Nazism in World War II as the international heritage of humankind, and to recognise the monuments to those who fought Nazism in all countries as an international memorial to World War II. This would form a reliable barrier against attempts to rewrite and falsify the history of the 20th century in general and of the Great Patriotic War, in particular. We are getting more and more support in this.
In addition, we are promoting an initiative to hold, in conjunction with the UN, a World Conference on Interreligious and Interethnic Dialogue by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Heads of state and heads of parliaments, as well as religious leaders, could take part in it.
Such a conference would help us develop common approaches to this sensitive issue and reduce tensions in international relations. We look forward to the UN adopting a corresponding resolution in May, where our joint initiative with the Inter-Parliamentary Union should be included. We also hope that you will support these initiatives.
Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin: Mr President, colleagues,
In a follow-up to this conversation, I would like to propose a number of approaches we discussed with the State Duma Council deputies. We think that the application of these approaches will allow for a more efficient implementation of the tasks set forth in the Presidential Address.
The existing practice is that although the Presidential Address is presented to the Federal Assembly, it is generally considered primarily as instructions to executive bodies. The deputies will then have to wait until the government drafts laws and submits them to the State Duma whereupon their discussion will start.
Even after the laws are passed, as a rule, another year is spent on adopting bylaws after which the legislation is passed in the regions. In our view, this hinders the effectiveness of the work to implement the Presidential Address. We do not have that much time to arrange our work like this.
In this regard we feel it necessary to make the drafting of laws on implementing the Presidential Address more efficient both at the federal level with the Government and by interacting with the regional legislatures at the same time.
First, this would raise the decision-making quality; second, it would speed up the adoption of decisions; and third, it would let regional laws be drafted at an early stage, and ultimately, this approach would create a systematic basis for efficient implementation of all the tasks set forth in the Presidential Address.
The State Duma has already set up a working group on legislative support for the implementation of the Presidential Address, a tentative work schedule has been made. About 70 draft laws were selected for priority discussion. To organise the work in a systematic way, we have suggested that our colleagues in the regions think about setting up similar working groups in all the legislative assemblies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
Working groups have already been established in ten regions including the Altai Territory Legislative Assembly, the Volgograd Region Duma, The State Assembly – Kurultai of the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Legislative Assemblies of the Tver, Penza and Rostov regions, the Krasnodar Territory, the Republic of Karelia, the Moscow City Duma and the Moscow Region Duma.
This will allow us to more efficiently, and with consideration for local specifics, discuss particular questions of legislative support and implementation of the Address, to work on it in dialogue with regional and municipal deputies, representatives of different social areas and the business community. Such organisation and continuous feedback will us to reach a radically different dynamic in this process, and a different quality.
Being accountable for our decisions is another important measure of our work. In this regard, I would be remiss not to touch upon another issue, which the President framed extremely clearly in his Address. It concerns the quality and accessibility of medical care, and the dwindling numbers of rural medical assistance centres.
Indeed, we have been able to accomplish much to advance medicine in recent years, such as developing a modern system of high-tech medical care that meets international standards. However, serious issues have arisen with regard to primary care, including due to our shortcomings, colleagues, and due to lack of oversight as decisions are carried out. Precisely the representative branch failed to hear the people’s concerns and requests. As a result, many medical institutions shut down due to their perfunctory approach to the matter.
The need to restore easy access to primary healthcare facilities was set by the President in his Address. Of course, there will be a programme, and funds will be allocated. However, our goal is not to repeat mistakes. What is important is not just to build and properly equip rural medical assistance centres, but, most importantly, the primary care network will not be operational without medical personnel – without a doctor, a medical assistant, and a nurse.
The current shortage of mid-level care providers at rural medical assistance centres and medical outpatient clinics in many regions stands at over 200,000. After the primary network is restored, this problem will become even more acute, especially in rural areas.
And so, we recommend paying special attention to this issue, forming already this year a programme for targeted recruitment and targeted training of mid-level primary care providers. These issues would be better heard and discussed by regional legislative assemblies.
Achieving the goals outlined in the Address is an undertaking in which everyone’s contribution matters, including the executive and legislative branches, the federal centre, and regional authorities.
In his Address to the Federal Assembly, the President raised the issue of returning to assessing the cadastral value of citizens' property in order to prevent it from being assessed above market value. Calculations should be fair, and the cost affordable for people.
Corresponding instructions were issued following the Address. This matter cannot be resolved without the regions. It is important to adapt federal laws – you just mentioned that, Mr President – to the local situation and its specifics. After all, the final cadastral value is determined by regional authorities.
In this regard, we propose – in conjunction with the groups created in the regions by the legislative assemblies to ensure the implementation of the Address – analysing the implementation of the current version of the law on state cadastral appraisal in various regions. It is important to identify common issues and causes of distortions when determining the cadastral value of property in the regions. This will allow the Government to take the results of this monitoring and, together with our colleagues from the Federation Council, amend the legislation.
In order to raise the efficiency of our representative institutions we need to seek new modern forms of work in other areas, too. It is important for the deputies to immerse themselves in the country’s development agenda, to better feel the problems in the economy, the social sphere and in regional development. This leads to greater awareness of their responsibility and their decision making.
A new work format was introduced this week – we had the first on-site meeting of the State Duma Council. It was attended by the heads of State Duma factions, State Duma deputies representing all parties, chairmen of relevant State Duma committees, representatives of the regions and the business community. The meeting was held in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area in the town of Sabetta. This is the site of a large project that you supported, Mr President, when you were Prime Minister in 2010.
Based on that initiative, a modern production facility was created under difficult conditions and within a very short period of time for projects of such magnitude. A new powerful centre for economic growth, the development of the Northern Sea Route and Russia’s global competitiveness are being established. Tens of thousands of new jobs were created not only in Yamal but also in other regions across the country.
Our trip to Sabetta was very useful and productive. We saw a lot and heard a lot from specialists. In fact, these were directions for the deputies from the industry, from those who work and explore Yamal and the whole country. There is a clear need to lift barriers and create additional conditions for the implementation of large investment projects like this, which are important for the country. This form of dialogue – discussing the development issues of the regions and industries – appears to be very promising. We are set to continue this work and make this a regular format.
We will hold the next meeting, on the issues of diversification of military industrial complex enterprises, with Rostec Corporation. We are planning to work out proposals that will lay the foundation for respective legislative decisions. It would be more appropriate if all bodies of power work more efficiently so their performance factor grows, otherwise even the most urgent decisions and tasks set forth by the President, will drag on.
In conclusion allow me to again turn to the day that has gathered us here for a number of years – Russian Parliamentarianism Day. Parliament always means dialogue, a conversation, a discussion on all subjects to find common ground on different issues and ultimately to find the best solution. For this reason, parliamentarianism should not be a set form, it should develop. In this connection I would like to express words of appreciation to our President for everything he has done to promote the parliamentary system in Russia.