The President called on the lawmakers to pay particular attention to a number of priority draft laws, in particular On the Police Force and the Russian-US START Treaty, as well as social initiatives outlined in the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, in the course of their spring session.
Dmitry Medvedev also announced that political system optimisation and Council of Federation reform will continue, and all transformations will occur within the framework of the Constitution.
The President spoke about interethnic relations, emphasising the need for meticulous work by deputies, civil servants, community leaders, business representatives, and the entire civil society to promote interethnic harmony. Civil peace and national accord are the key conditions for resolving economic, social and political challenges, the President stressed.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
We are meeting today in a new format – with the Federal Assembly leadership. Present here are the speakers of both chambers, their deputies, and the leaders of key Council of Federation committees and State Duma parties.
I regularly have meetings with party leaders. I find them very useful, since they not only let us say important things to one another and analyse the situation in the nation, but also allow us to work out certain recommendations that (the party leaders will not let me lie) are subsequently often implemented in practice – if, of course, there is more or less serious consensus on those issues.
Given that the quality of interaction between the two most important political institutions – the President and the parliament – directly affects the position of millions of Russian citizens, I feel that these kinds of meetings can become regular and can also involve the formulation of suggestions on developing legislation, developing the parliamentary system and other democratic institutions in our nation.
It would also be very important for me to see that the Federal Assembly works as a single constitutional body, because normally, these kinds of meetings take place either at the higher chamber or the lower chamber, or with participation of corresponding Council of Federation or State Duma leaders. We almost never meet all together, except perhaps when the President delivers his Address to the Federal Assembly, and in a number of other exclusive formats. I feel that this is precisely the kind of modern platform that we could use.
Why is this important? Because the quality of our legislation, our ability to reach compromises and overcome so-called departmental approaches, depends on how harmoniously we work together. And departmental approaches exist everywhere: at the executive level as well as the parliamentary level, and there is certainly a difference in approaches between the Council of Federation and the State Duma. Sometimes this is good because that is democracy, which involves collision of opinions; but sometimes it can also be harmful, and this is what we need to talk about too.
Colleagues, it is the beginning of the spring session and I congratulate you on this; you have finally returned to work. I would like to say that, as you probably noted, I outlined some of the initiatives in my Address to the Federal Assembly. Most of these initiatives target social protection of our citizens, protection and education of our young citizens – our children.
Implementation of the social policy is a key priority for any government, and ours in particular. I would like to say, in the presence of the heads of the upper and lower chambers, that I very much count on your support of these initiatives. This is the very subject that I think should unify us even if our approaches to resolving other problems differ. But as far as child protection is concerned, as well as improving social guarantees within the limits we are capable of today, I count on our working in a coordinated fashion.
I also expect that as a result of the discussions, which have been going on for some time, the law On the Police Force will be passed quickly.
In addition, I want to ask that you give priority consideration to another draft law that will be submitted for consideration; I am referring to the law on introducing municipal party-list based elections. I am certain (otherwise, I would not be submitting the corresponding legislative initiative) that this draft law will increase political competition and strengthen the positions of Russia’s parties, which means strengthening our democracy.
Another highly important document is undergoing the ratification procedure; I am referring to the new START Treaty. The Americans have done what they promised to do: they have ratified it, with certain nuances. Now it is our parliament’s turn. We have all the necessary opportunities to do the same. I count on this decision to be taken.
It is also imperative to pass the laws I recently spoke about at the meeting on countering corruption – improving state management in countering corruption and introducing separate liability for a whole range of violations. I am referring to liability for aggravated bribery, including liability in the form of fines.
This is a legislative innovation for Russian laws, and in my view, it is an interesting one. If our parliament supports it (and I’m counting on it), then I hope it will be worth it and useful to a certain degree. I also want to mention liability for creating so-called fly-by-night companies. The Government has pledged to submit the corresponding draft law by February 1, 2011. I think this is another matter we should specifically address now.
And naturally, we need to analyse the information coming from our voters on the facts of corruption. I hope that deputies and members of the Council of Federation will use their status and their rights to do everything in their power to fight corruption in our nation. Especially since we understand that unfortunately, corruption is universal and affects not only civil servants but deputies as well.
In addition to your legislative activities, there will be other events significant for the parliament and our entire political system.
We are introducing new principles of the Council of Federation formation. Now, only citizens who have been elected to local legislative bodies can become senators, or members of the upper chamber. The regions get back their right to recall their representatives before term, and we are cancelling the residency requirement that we instated some time ago. Members of the Council of Federation are given this status by the decision of the regional government. This decision no longer needs to be approved by a Council of Federation act.
This reform, just as any other reform, is aimed at giving the Council of Federation back a certain special political purpose, if you will, which is vested in it by the Constitution. In any case, it brings it closer to that purpose: namely, representing the interests of citizens and authorities of all of Russia’s territories – in other words, to be a full-fledged chamber serving the regions.
I would like to say that frankly, I think our efforts to improve the work of the Council of Federation will not end there. Naturally, all of this needs to be done within the framework of the Constitution. But we must nevertheless optimise our political system. I am not suggesting anything right now. The direction in which this process could go is clear. We will think about it and discuss it together.
State Duma deputies will also be doing important work. The political parties have already begun to compete in, I believe, 77 federal constituent entities. Based on the results of March elections, we will be able to assess the popularity and competitiveness of the key political forces (this is a routine check) and make forecasts about this year’s main political event – State Duma elections.
During meetings at this level, we also have to make strategic decisions. I would like to say that we have some very important issues. I raised some of them at the State Council meeting in December. The economic, social, and political challenges facing our nation are very multi-faceted and very difficult, but I have no doubt that these challenges can be resolved.
In order to resolve them, we need one thing, but it is a key condition, and you know what it is: civil peace. Whatever difficult challenges we may face, we cannot do anything in our nation without civil peace; we can only fight the chaos, so we need civil peace and interethnic harmony, as well as mutual understanding and solidarity between all the peoples of our nation. I am telling you this as the leaders of the two chambers of parliament.
That is precisely why the Federal Assembly must engage in the daily work to support social stability not only in the sense of passing high-quality legislation – you are doing that anyway (and I would like to thank all of you for it again) – but also in the daily work that you are doing not only in Moscow but in the regions as well – in places of your original authority.
I would like you to also express certain considerations on this matter. Something I believe we don’t need is the creation of new structures; I already said this at the State Council meeting. Attempts to create additional bureaucratic structures like a ‘Nationalities Ministry’ have never resolved these challenges. What we need is the meticulous work by deputies, civil servants, community leaders, business representatives, and the entire civil society to support interethnic harmony.
Naturally, it must also involve dialogue with our various social structures, a wide variety of structures, including problem regions. Especially since hospitality is a traditional and intrinsic part of the culture of our nation’s peoples, whereas intolerance, aggressiveness and unsociability are generally the manifestation of a low level of culture.
All Nazis, regardless of their place of origin, are by their nature anti-nationalists. They simply undermine the cultural foundations for the development of their state and essentially destroy everything, including their own ethnos, which they are supposedly fighting for. Recall the saddening example of Nazi Germany. Ultimately, it hit the German nation, the German people. Thus, we need to respond to such processes very seriously. We must talk about our true values, our traditions, so as not to allow the spread of ideological myths, prejudices and various kinds of falsifications.
We must give attention to our multi-ethnic culture, but without any doubt, we must give particular attention to Russian culture. This is the foundation, the backbone in the development of our multi-ethnic culture. It is normal, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about it.
In general, Russians are the largest ethnic group in our nation. The Russian language is the national language. The Russian Orthodox Church is the most common faith in our nation. Those of you present in this hall represent various cultures, but a significant number of you represent Russian culture. And we need to develop and promote the best features of the Russian character, precisely because at a certain point in time, these best features of our national character made our nation strong – they essentially created our nation. What are those?
They are entirely clear: tolerance, kind-heartedness, our ability to get along with neighbours, build a common state, and self-confidence. The result is the Russians’ widely known generosity, a broad view of things, of their own history and that of others. I suppose that is what defines Russian traditions and the Russian character.
Why am I bringing this up? Tomorrow, I am making a special visit: I will be going to Jordan and the Palestinian territories. And in addition to the state aspects of my visit, an obligatory part, I will likely visit the relevant places.
I would like to note that in recent years, Russia has built new churches, museums and hotels for pilgrims in the Holy Land. And this certainly strengthens Russian traditions. It is also certain that my colleagues and I will be speaking about supporting other ethnicities and other creeds in our nation.
We must pay attention to culture. It is with good reason that I gave it so much attention in my opening remarks. Indeed, we cannot get caught up only on traditions, regardless of how interesting they may be. We must create our modern culture of the Russian Federation, including ethnic Russian culture as well, of course.
We also need to support modern Russian folklore, as well as modern music and literature, and the customs and traditions that are shaping right before our eyes, not just those that came from our ancestors. That’s the only way we can develop synthetic national values.
I would like to say right away: given that these meetings are to become regular, if someone does not get a chance to speak today, I expect that it will happen over the course of our subsequent meetings.