President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Matviyenko, good afternoon.
Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: The spring session is now over, isn’t it?
Valentina Matviyenko: I would like to begin by taking this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to you for supporting not only the Federation Council, but also the regional parliaments, as well as for taking part in the Council of Legislators, as usual.
I say this without any fanfare, but it is my belief that this demonstrates the way the head of state respects parliament as one of the core democratic institutions, as well as the opinion of members of parliament at all levels. It is the people who elect them to these offices. Therefore, I would like to thank you for that.
Vladimir Putin: They are called upon to deliver on very important tasks, especially at the regional level, literally they work on the ground, directly with people.
Valentina Matviyenko: This is a source of both confidence and strength.
Mr President, we had quite a packed agenda for this past session, but I believe that it was an effective one too. We reviewed about 500 draft laws. Even more importantly, the senators have become more active with 70 laws initiated either by senators or with the participation of other actors entitled to put forward legislative initiatives.
Among these laws, those dealing with supporting the economy and domestic businesses against the backdrop of sanctions were a priority for us. Of course, about 80 of them were laws dealing with major social issues – we adopted them in execution of the instructions you issued in your Address to the Federal Assembly to set in law your initiatives on supporting families with children and people in general.
Overall, I can say that despite all the challenges, people have been able to benefit from social guarantees in full, and not a single national project was suspended. As the chair of the Council for the Implementation of State Policy in the Sphere of Protecting Family and Children, I keep a close eye on these matters together with my colleagues. Almost 2.5 trillion rubles from the budget has been earmarked for children. This has never happened before, and make no mistake, people can feel the difference.
The second priority for us was adopting laws that support participants in the special military operation and their family members. We adopted around 60 laws and worked promptly, ensuring a fast response to the issues that arise.
Your initiative to establish the National Fund for Special Military Operation Participants and their Families along with branches of the fund in Russian regions turned out to be a very timely and helpful decision. I visited some of these centres: these are universal one-stop shops where any participant in the special military operation or member of their family can receive advice, help and support without unnecessary red tape. Governors put their hearts into this job. The centres have nice functional interiors; they are comfortable, and they have a very friendly atmosphere. The number of complaints or loose ends has decreased. The fund is very productive.
In general, you know that, in addition to federal support measures, every region has its own programmes supporting participants in the special military operation. The approach here is informal too, people work wholeheartedly. Senators representing regions are directly involved in these efforts.
Another priority for us during this session was adopting laws concerning integration of the new constituent entities into Russia’ legal, economic and social framework. I know that you personally monitor this issue. A substantial number of laws have been adopted although the process is not quite finished.
Mr President, I would like to propose establishing a council on integration of new regions under the Federation Council. What do I mean? What responsibilities will this council fulfil? As a matter of fact, when it comes to legislation and regulatory acts, these regions lack experience, and the work has to be started from scratch. In September, they will elect regional parliaments. It is important that the laws they will adopt comply with the Constitution and Russian laws.
On the other hand, the council may be responsible for parliamentary control of the essential matters for these territories. We have similar past experience: for example, we have a designated council on the development of the timber industry. We also have a council on regional healthcare. We always put an emphasis on regional issues, and this is how many issues have been resolved.
Take, for example, Crimea and Sevastopol. What Ukraine left in Crimea and Sevastopol in terms of healthcare, is beyond discussion. We decided to take care of licensing healthcare facilities. The process was complicated but to date, more than 70 percent of healthcare facilities in Crimea and Sevastopol have a licence. We also extended the deadline. I think the work will be completed by the end of next year.
If you support this idea, we will certainly get this done and will provide support to the new regional parliaments.
We work in constant contact with Russian regions. We have good formats, days of regions in the Federation Council. We deal with systemic issues, for example, inter-budgetary relations (we try to closely monitor regional budgets in cooperation with the Finance Ministry), the development of investment programmes, social gas infrastructure development, which is also being implemented following your instructions. We are actively engaged in this; sometimes, when we see that something is “an emergency,” something is wrong, we target it specifically together with the Government.
For example, we systemically deal with children's healthcare in the regions and upgrade infrastructure of children's medical institutions as part of the Decade of Childhood programme. During these years, we should build 53 new hospitals and polyclinics for children; 22 children's hospitals (territorial and regional) are under construction. Ten more hospitals are to open this year, and we are designing seven new ones. That is, in the next few years we will have a good result with the complete modernisation of children's medical institutions. You know how important this is, as the foundation of health is laid in these years.
Second, we turned to you with a request – you supported it then and gave a relevant instruction to the Government – about the need to upgrade infrastructure of children's health-improving recreation, as we used to say, pioneer camps, children's holiday centres.
Vladimir Putin: But you have been engaged in this for a long time, almost personally.
Valentina Matviyenko: Yes. Now, after the Soviet era, these camps became dilapidated. Some of them have already been sold. We submitted and adopted a law forbidding their repurposing. As a rule, children's camps were located in the best places (near a lake, with good nature and so on): the remaining camps will no longer be repurposed.
You gave instructions to the Government, and we worked out a pilot project together. This year, in a very short time, by June 1, by the beginning of the health promotion campaign, 49 new dormitory blocks were put into operation, and our domestic construction technology was very appropriate – these are modular, prefabricated blocks. They are very comfortable.
Fifteen regions participated in this pilot project, and another 18 regions took part using their regional funds. Now we have agreed: the Government will allocate money for co-financing this year, and another 16 regions will be involved in the project by the end of the year. We will upgrade this material base in a few years (it includes catering units and so on). We will be monitoring this very carefully in the Federation Council.
In addition, we held a number of very important international events during the spring session, under the patronage of the Federation Council. This is the 10th Nevsky International Environmental Congress in St Petersburg – there were many foreign participants. We also held the 10th Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions in Bashkortostan. Thank you for your greetings. This project has already grown so much: practically all regions today do more than just cooperate – the volume of this cooperation, both mutual trade, investment and joint projects, really matches the scale of the Union State.
For the second year in a row, we are implementing the wonderful project, the Train of Memory. Last year it was a Russian-Belarusian project, and this year we invited the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. For 16 days, 200 children visit eight Russian and eight Belarusian cities by train. These are the cities that are tied to the history of the Great Patriotic War, with monuments, museums and memorials. The children were completely transformed by this trip. By the 80th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, we want to create a similar Train of Memory for high-school students and invite all CIS countries.
Mr President, you gave us another assignment. Despite the attempts to isolate Russia, the intensity of inter-parliamentary contacts has increased: we have received 56 delegations of various levels in Russia, and there have been 57 visits by our senators to 24 countries at the invitation of our partners. They want to hear Russia's point of view, they show respect towards Russia, so the “golden billion” and the “collective West” are not the whole world.
In September, we will have the nationwide voting day: 20 governors will be elected, as will 26 legislative assemblies. About 40 percent of senators representing these regions will be new. Every September, on days of nationwide voting, new, fresh people come to us, new blood, as they call it: these are the most honourable and respected people from the regions, each with their own background and experience. This gives us an opportunity to always discuss any pressing issues or problems in a broader field.
That is why, on the whole, the senators did well and worked actively. Thank you for your support.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Matviyenko, I would like to thank you and all the members of the Federation Council.
We know that the Federation Council is the upper house of parliament and, in this sense, the most important part of it, where, first and foremost, of course, the tasks related to rule-making and the adoption of laws are resolved. But it is still a special chamber, as you yourself have just said, and we emphasise this all the time – it is the chamber of the regions. And this second component – the regional dimension of your work – is no less important. Direct communication with the regions, understanding what is happening on the ground, what needs to be done to ensure that the tasks at the regional level are addressed even more effectively and in a timely manner – this is an extremely important, simply very important thing. International contacts are also important.
Thank you for paying a lot of attention to social issues. This is not the only issue related to children’s summer holidays, although it is the most urgent today. Nevertheless, support for the family, childhood, motherhood – these are extremely important, major things. But there are many other issues that you and I discuss during our work, roughly speaking, on a daily basis, in the working mode, so to speak. On the whole, of course, the work was quite intense and effective, and decisions were made in a timely manner.
I can also say the same about the initiatives of the Federation Council, which are generated “from below” in connection with your work in the regions. I hope that after a short break, we will continue to work in this serious and intense manner.
Valentina Matviyenko: Thank you very much, Mr President.